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VICTOR 

LETTERS 
FROM 


Presented  to  the 

UNIVERSITY  OF  TORONTO 
LIBRARY 

by  the 

ONTARIO  LEGISLATIVE 
LIBRARY 

1980 


VICTOR  CHAPMAN'S  LETTERS 


THE  MACMILLAN  COMPANY 

NEW  YORK  •   BOSTON  •   CHICAGO   •  DALLAS 
ATLANTA   •   SAN  FRANCISCO 

MACMILLAN  &  CO.,  LIMITED 

LONDON   •  BOMBAY   •  CALCUTTA 
MELBOURNE 

THE  MACMILLAN  CO.  OF  CANADA,  LTD. 

TORONTO 


Victor  and  His  Mother. 


VICTOR  CHAPMAN'S  LETTERS 
FROM    FRANCE 


WITH  MEMOIR 

BY  JOHN  JAY  CHAPMAN 


fork 

THE  MACMILLAN  COMPANY 
1917 

All  rights  reserved 


COPYRIGHT,  1917 

BY  THE  MACMILLAN  COMPANY 
Set  up  and  printed.    Published  May,  1917. 


Brtrtratefc  to 

WILLIAM  ASTOR  CHANLER 

AND 

AUGUST  F.  JACCACI 

IN  GRATITUDE  FOR  THEIR  GOODNESS 
TO  MY  SON 

J.  J.  c. 


CONTENTS 

PAGE 

MEMOIR 3 

THE  LEGION 45 

AVIATION 137 

ADDENDA 193 


LIST  OF  ILLUSTRATIONS 

Victor  and  His  Mother Frontispiece 

Victor  at  Three Facing  Page  12 

InjToy  Harness 14 

Country  Friends 16 

Home  for  the  Holidays 20 

Legionnaire 45 

Life  in  the  Legion 86 

Aviation 137 


MEMOIR 


Great-hearted,  loyal,  reckless  for  a  friend; 

Not  counting  risks,  cool  handed,  clear  of  sight, 

He  gave  himself  to  serve  a  lofty  end, 

And,  like  an  eagle  soaring  in  the  light, 

On  wings  unruffled  by  the  wind's  chance  breath 

He  sought,  and  seeks  his  goal  with  steadfast  flight, 

—Victor,  indeed,  in  name,  in  life,  in  death! 

John  Heard,  Jr. 


MEMOIR 

VICTOR  EMMANUEL  CHAPMAN,  a  member  of  the 
Franco-American  Aviation  Corps,  was  killed  at 
Verdun  on  June  23,  1916,  and  fell  within  the  German 
lines.  He  was  in  his  twenty-seventh  year;  was  born 
in  New  York,  spent  two  years  at  the  Fay  School, 
went  for  several  years  to  St.  Paul's  School,  Concord, 
lived  abroad  for  a  year  in  France  and  Germany.  On 
his  return,  he  spent  a  year  at  the  Stone  School  in 
Boston  and  then  went  to  Harvard,  where  he  gradu- 
ated in  1913;  immediately  after  graduation  he  went 
to  Paris  and  studied  architecture  for  one  year  in  the 
atelier  of  M.  Gromort,  in  preparation  for  admission 
to  the  Beaux  Arts.  This  made  him  a  Beaux  Art 
student, — for  the  ateliers  are  a  part  of  the  school, — 
and  thus  it  came  about  that  in  1914  he  joined  the 
Foreign  Legion. 

r  Victor  spent  a  year  in  the  trenches  at  a  point  in 
the  lines  where  there  were  no  attacks,  but  where 
inaction  and  the  continual  " sniping"  severely  tried 
the  nerves.  Kohn,  an  accomplished  Polish  mathema- 
tician was  shot,  as  he  and  Victor  were  leaning  over 
the  talus.  He  died  in  Victor's  arms.  For  over  one 
hundred  consecutive  days  Victor  was  in  the  front 
trenches  as  aide-char geur  to  a  mitrail.  He  was 
slightly  wounded  once,  and  one  half  of  his  squadron 
were  either  killed  or  seriously  hurt.  In  September, 


4  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

1915,  he  was  transferred  to  the  Aviation  Corps.  He 
served  a  short  time  as  a  bomb-dropper  to  aviators 
and  was  then  sent  to  learn  to  fly  at  the  instruction 
camps.  He  received  his  flying  papers  as  Pilot  in  the 
following  February. 

The  organization  of  the  Franco-American  Flying 
Corps  was  perfected  at  about  this  time,  and  Victor 
went  to  the  front  as  pilot  in  company  with  Norman 
Prince,  Elliott  Cowden,  William  K.  Thaw,  Kiffin 
Rockwell,  Bert  Hall,  James  McConnell  and  others. 

The  history  of  the  Franco-American  Aviation 
Corps  must  be  sought  elsewhere;  but  the  mention 
of  it  compels  a  word  of  admiration  for  its  creator, 
Norman  Prince.  Prince  was  as  brilliant  as  an  or- 
ganizer as  he  was  as  a  fighter,  and  the  patience  of 
himself  and  the  other  young  Americans  who  per- 
sisted in  their  idea  of  offering  to  the  French  Govern- 
ment an  American  Flying  Corps,  when  they  could, 
with  much  greater  ease  have  gathered  laurels  for 
themselves  in  the  French  service,  will  in  the  future 
be  recognized  by  our  country  as  stamped  with  true 
patriotism.  They  clung  through  thick  and  thin  to 
their  idea  of  an  American  unit,  and  at  last  their  offer 
was  accepted.  By  this  course  they  brought  the  name 
of  America  into  honor  and  bound  their  glory  on 
their  country's  brows. 

Victor's  mother  was  so  remarkable  a  woman  and 
so  like  him  in  many  ways, — she  was  so  much  the 
author  of  the  heroic  atmosphere,  a  sort  of  poetic 
aloofness  that  hung  about  him  and  suggested  early 
death  in  some  heroic  form, — that  to  leave  her  out 


MEMOIR  5 

in  any  account  of  him  would  be  to  leave  out  part  of 
himself.  Her  name  was  Minna  Timmins,  and  her 
mother  was  an  Italian,  a  Milanese  lady  who  married 
a  rich  American  and  lived  with  him  in  Milan  in  the 
Sixties,  during  which  time  five  children  were  born,  of 
whom  Minna  was  the  eldest  daughter.  My  knowl- 
edge of  the  early  surroundings  of  their  family  depends 
naturally  upon  hearsay  and  tradition.  They  seem  to 
have  had  everything  handsome  about  them.  They 
had  Opera  boxes,  horses  and  carriages,  menservants, 
fine  linen  and  cut  glass,  and  a  silver  tray  four  feet 
across  which  was  brought  into  the  drawing-room 
ready  set  and  covered  with  urns,  teapots  and  sugar 
bowls,  being  borne  up  by  two  staggering  menservants, 
— to  the  vast  satisfaction  of  Milan.  The  children 
lived  in  the  mezzanine,  and  were  packed  into  small 
rooms  and  allowed  to  appear  upon  show  occasions. 
They  were  much  left  to  servants,  and  they  huddled  to- 
gether with  fear  when  they  heard  the  terrible  ringing 
of  their  mother's  hand-bell,  summoning  one  servant 
after  another  to  receive  peremptory  orders.  The 
hand-bell  signified  that  a  tempest  was  raging,  and 
tempests  were  frequent;  for  the  mother  (Victor's 
grandmother)  was  a  demon  of  natural  force  with  a 
will  and  temperament  such  as  Italy  sometimes  pro- 
duces, and  a  temper  that  was  under  no  control.  The 
swarm  of  young  semi-Italians  was  neglected,  from 
the  point  of  view  of  American  standards;  and  yet 
neglect  was  its  advantage.  The  elder  sister  became 
the  little  mother  of  the  brood,  and  her  character  and 
wits  were  thereby  developed  beyond  her  years.  Now, 


6  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

all  this  while,  there  was  living  in  America,  a  wedded, 
rich  and  childless  sister  of  Mr.  Timmins,  and  upon 
his  death,  which  occurred  early  and  suddenly,  it  was 
found  that  this  aunt  and  her  husband,  Mr.  Martin 
Brimmer  of  Boston,  had  agreed  to  take  the  children, 
or  some  of  them,  to  America.  They  arrived  in  several 
consignments  during  several  years,  and  were  sent  to 
American  schools, — all  except  the  oldest  boy,  the 
mother's  pet,  who  remained  in  Italy.  Minna,  a 
swarthy,  fiery,  large-eyed  girl,  who  looked  like  the 
younger  sybil  of  Michael  Angelo,  was  sent  with  a 
sister  to  St.  Agnes'  School  at  Albany.  She  would 
have  been  like  an  eagle  in  a  barnyard  anywhere,  and 
remained  to  the  end  of  her  life,  which  occurred  when 
Victor  was  six  years  old,  a  classic  figure,  athletic, 
sweeping  and  impulsive.  She  "walked  with  her  head 
in  the  clouds  and  her  feet  at  the  bottom  of  the  sea." 
She  read  constantly  and  wrote  diaries,  letters, 
memoranda,  abstracts  of  books  and  notes  on  lectures. 
She  followed  philosophical  courses  and  made  met- 
aphysical studies  down  to  the  end  of  her  life.  I  think 
there  must  be  twenty  note-books  of  every  size  and 
shape  among  her  papers,  crammed  with  musings, 
rhapsodies  and  dates.  Her  reading  was  miscel- 
laneous, voracious  and  disordered;  and  her  mem- 
oranda were  like  the  leaves  blown  about  the  Cumean 
cavern  by  the  winds  of  inspiration. 
««.  Yet  for  all  this  whirlwind  which  seemed  to  move 
in  her  steps,  there  was  a  central  calm  in  her,  a  smiling 
majesty;  and  when  I  think  of  her  it  is  as  a  tall  young 
matron  full  of  life,  entering  a  room  with  gaiety,  bear- 


MEMOIR  7 

ing  an  armful  of  flowers  for  the  pots  and  vases, — 
crowned  with  inner  dignity,  ready  to  meet  the 
thoughts  of  all,  domestic  and  full  of  common  sense. 
It  was  life  that  glowed  in  her  and  flowed  out  in  her 
correspondence,  her  friendships,  her  pursuits,  her 
passions.  Her  vitality  seemed  like  extravagance 
because  of  its  fulness,  but  in  her  it  was  nature  and  the 
modesty  of  nature.  I  think  that  the  rarity  of  her 
came  from  a  sort  of  double  endowment.  She  had  the 
man-minded  seriousness  of  women  in  classic  myths, 
the  regular  brow,  heavy  dark  hair,  free  gait  of  the 
temperament  that  lives  in  heroic  thought  and  finds 
the  world  full  of  chimeras,  of  religious  mysteries, 
sacrifice,  purgation.  This  part  of  her  nature  was  her 
home  and  true  refuge.  Here  dwelt  the  impersonal 
power  that  was  never  far  from  her.  There  have  been 
few  women  like  her;  and  most  of  them  have  existed 
only  in  the  imagination  of  ^Eschylus  and  the  poets. 

But  Minna's  seriousness  was  not  the  whole  of  her; 
and  perhaps  the  part  that  is  played  on  the  stage  is 
not  the  whole  of  Antigone  and  Medea.  Within  the 
priestess  there  lived  a  joyous  nymph, — a  kind  of 
Euphrosyne;  and  this  is  what  makes  her  doings  in- 
describable, because,  when  she  ran  riot,  it  was  the 
riot  of  the  grape-vine.  There  was  divinity  in  it. 

She  and  her  sister  were  exceedingly  religious,  with 
a  touch  of  old  world  Catholicism  which  they  had 
from  an  old  padre  whose  name,  if  I  could  remember 
it,  ought  to  be  recorded  here;  for  he  lived  in  the 
memories  of  the  sisters  as  one  of  those  quiet  Saints 
which  the  Roman  Church  still  gives  to  the  world. 


8  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

The  piety  of  this  padre  passed  over  into  the  Protes- 
tantism which  awaited  both  of  the  girls.  They  lived 
in  a  sanctuary  of  prayer,  religious  books,  observances, 
meditations.  This  world  Victor  inherited;  for  while 
he  had  not  the  intellect  of  his  mother  and  was  an 
inchoate  nature,  there  was  from  his  infancy  to  his 
death  something  about  him  of  silence,  mystery,  god- 
head. 

He  continued  to  the  end  of  his  life  to  make  the 
sign  of  the  cross  in  saying  the  same  prayers  that  she 
had  taught  him — which  ended  with  the  phrase— 
"and  make  me  a  big  soldier  of  Jesus  Christ  who  is 
the  Lord  and  Light  of  the  world."  He  folded  his 
hands  like  a  crusader  as  he  said  them.  He  was  a 
part  of  the  middle  ages  in  this  piety.  His  tiny 
trench-bible,  which  was  full  of  pressed  flowers  and 
kodaks  of  his  friends,  was  so  much  a  miniature  copy 
of  his  mother's  bible  that  the  little  book  seemed  like 
the  baby  of  the  big  one.  To  return  to  the  Brimmer 
household,  there  was  an  extraordinary  beauty  in  the 
relation  of  the  two  girls  to  the  aunt  and  uncle  who 
had  saved  them.  The  girls  nourished  and  celebrated 
the  older  couple.  They  hung  garlands  about  them 
and  ran  before  them  like  fawns.  In  company  with 
the  Brimmers,  the  Timmins  girls  travelled  much  in 
Europe.  The  house  in  Boston  was  filled  with  pic- 
tures, bric-a-brac  and  educated  people.  There  were 
sumptuous  dinners,  and  elaborate  evening  recep- 
tions; for  the  Brimmer  establishment  was  mounted 
luxuriously.  In  the  midst  of  this  social  life  the  two 
girls  continued  a  sort  of  inner  conventual  life  of  their 


MEMOIR  9 

own.  Their  foreign  origin  made  for  them  not  an 
isolation  but  a  retreat.  Their  tastes  were  by  nature 
hardy,  and  they  supported  each  other  in  being  ele- 
mental Italian  women,  speaking  to  each  other  in  a 
patois  which  had  originally  been  Milanese  Italian 
and  which,  of  course,  I  learned  in  the  course  of 
time. 

The  younger  sister,  Gemma,  was  in  every  way  a 
contrast  to  the  elder.  She  was  short,  comparatively 
speaking  blonde,  very  sweet  and  submissive  and  a 
born  slave  to  the  elder.  Indeed  she  was  so  much 
overshadowed  by  Minna's  dominant  nature  that  it 
was  not  until  Minna  married  that  Gemma  came  into 
her  own.  The  relation  between  them,  though  I  think 
it  encouraged  the  imperiousness  of  Minna,  was  an 
organic  thing,  and  one  which  no  philosophy  could 
reach.  They  had  grown  up  together  like  trees  that 
are  intertwined,  and  the  branches  of  one  shaded  the 
other.  There  was  a  reminiscence  of  his  mother's 
nature  in  Victor's  friendships.  He  was  always  the 
leader,  both  leaning  on  and  sweeping  forward  some 
subordinate  nature  who  adored  and  followed.  This 
matter  gave  me  concern,  but  there  was  nothing  to  be 
done  about  it. 

Minna  was  infinitely  more  expressive  than  Victor. 
She  acted  upon  her  impulses  which  were  loving  and 
headlong,  tender  or  fierce,  personal  or  impersonal  as 
occasion  gave  rise  to  them,  but  always  large,  and 
done  with  a  sweep.  Some  people  she  terrified  by  her 
force,  others  she  melted  by  her  warmth.  She  once 
met  on  a  doorstep  a  very  beautiful  young  girl  of  her 


io  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

acquaintance,  and  who  was  wearing  a  new  hat 
trimmed  by  herself  with  imitation  sweet-peas. 
Minna  was  enraptured  by  the  vision  but  the  colors 
were  wrong.  Some  of  the  tints  in  the  sweet-peas 
were  inharmonious.  She  took  the  hat  from  the  head 
of  the  vision  and  picked  off  the  offending  colors  one 
by  one  and  threw  them  to  the  winds.  Yet  she  did 
this  in  such  a  way  as  to  endear  herself  and  explain 
the  action.  She  was  an  extreme  example  of  that 
temperament  which  the  Italians  call  terribile, — the 
temperament  that  speaks  its  mind  on  all  occasions. 
The  word  does  not  imply  a  savage  manner  but  an 
insuppressibility.  Minna  was  capable  of  extraor- 
dinary social  finesse.  At  a  social  function  a  very 
kind  good  Bostonian  gentleman  admired  her  dress 
and  took  the  edge  of  it  in  his  fingers.  Both  she  and 
her  sister  wore  dresses  that  were  somehow  reminis- 
cent of  Italy.  This  action  of  the  admirer  was  the 
sort  of  trespass  upon  the  person  which  deserved  a 
rebuke — and  she  said,  "Tapissur?" — but  she  said 
it  with  a  smile  and  with  so  much  benevolence  that 
there  was  no  sting  in  it. 

I  must  admit, — what  the  reader  will  have  sur- 
mised,— that  her  unconventionality  and  habit  of 
spontaneous  expression  did  not  please  all  people. 
There  are  those  who  cannot  enjoy  nature  in  this 
geyser  form.  A  friend  reminds  me  of  the  following 
story,  which  is  probably  true.  Minna  and  I  were 
walking  on  Fifth  Avenue,  apparently  engaged  in 
moral  discussion,  when  some  one  met  us.  It  seems 
that  she  had  taken  the  tortoise-shell  pins  out  of  her 


MEMOIR  ii 

hair,  and  her  braids  fell  to  her  waist.  Her  plea  was 
that  she  had  a  headache.  My  sense  of  propriety  was 
shocked,  and  I  was  vainly  supplying  her  with  sound 
reasons  for  a  more  seemly  behavior.  At  length  I 
gave  way  to  her  point  of  view,  took  off  my  coat  and 
carried  it  on  my  arm.  This  policy  of  non-resistance 
worked  like  a  charm,  and  she  put  up  her  hair.  I 
resumed  my  coat.  Now  it  is  impossible  to  make  all 
persons  understand  a  being  of  this  sort.  But  on  the 
whole,  Minna  was  well  understood  and  rightly  all 
but  worshipped  by  many. 

She  loved  old  people,  and  made  a  cult  of  various 
beautiful  examples  of  old  age  who  were  then  blessing 
Boston,  and  whom  she  went  to  see  constantly;  for, 
at  the  bottom  of  her  soul,  there  was  a  passion  of  piety 
and  reverence,  which  attached  itself  to  persons  who 
were  serene.  Her  early  maturity,  brought  about 
through  pain,  and  which  was  strangely  duplicated  in 
her  boy,  made  her  a  friend  to  those  that  suffered.  I 
have  forgotten  to  speak  of  her  painting  and  drawing, 
her  studios,  her  pilgrimages  to  visit  strange  saints 
and  odd  characters.  Now,  it  was  a  man  who  made 
violins  or  who  had  a  collection  of  early  watches.  Now, 
it  was  an  old  woman  who  had  lost  eight  sons  in  the 
Civil  War.  The  reverence  she  would  cast  into  the 
accosting  of  the  milk  man,  if  for  any  reason  her 
imagination  was  awakened,  was  a  thing  I  have  never 
seen  in  another  and  which,  at  this  moment,  fills  me 
with  awe.  She  could  be  rough  too,  and  smite  like 
Agag;  and  in  case  of  some  supposed  injustice  or 
meanness,  she  would  smolder,  flash  and  crash  with 


12  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

volcanic  power.     It  wasn't  she  that  did  it:  it  just 
occurred. 

Her  sister  was  in  a  lingering  and  fatal  illness  at  the 
time  Victor  was  born.  I  think  it  was  for  this  reason 
that  his  Christening  was  hurried.  About  nine  days 
after  his  birth,  his  mother  wrapped  him  in  the  pelt  of 
a  mountain  cat  and  went  to  Boston  for  the  Christen- 
ing. Phillips  Brooks  was  his  god-father.  Soon  after 
this,  Minna  became  possessed  with  the  idea  that  if 
Gemma  could  be  fed  with  milk  from  her  own  breast, 
she  would  be  saved.  I  remember  only  the  tragic 
passions  of  this  crisis,  and  I  do  not  know  whether  the 
plan  was  carried  out  or  not;  but  I  seem  to  remember 
another  journey  to  Boston  with  this  end  in  view. 

Minna  was  immensely  strong  physically  and 
would  spend  six  hours  on  a  step-ladder  papering  a 
room  or  hanging  pictures.  She  sewed,  hammered, 
sawed,  painted,  etched,  gathered  flowers,  decorated 
and  arranged  indefatigably.  Her  passion  for  physical 
objects  was  a  Mediterranean  inheritance.  She  could 
never  have  enough  of  them;  an  object,  once  loved  and 
collected,  retained  its  significance  and  sanctity  in 
her  mind.  Her  little  drawing-room,  which  my  grand- 
mother used  to  call  a  junk-shop,  was  really  the  cata- 
logue and  digest  of  her  soul's  history. 

She  was  a  great  housewife  and  loved  accounts, 
kept  her  bills  and  beat  down  the  tradesmen  like  a 
peasant.  I  used  to  find  my  old  friend  and  neighbor, 
Thomas  Ward,  the  coal  merchant,  holding  long 
sessions  with  her  in  the  parlor.  I  used  to  say  to  him — 
"Mr.  Ward,  how  can  you  make  money  on  this  sys- 


BBB 

Victor  at  Three. 


MEMOIR  13 

tern?" — But  I  suppose  he  did  it  somehow;  for  I  had 
an  affectionate  letter  from  him  at  the  time  of  Victor's 
death.  Minna  was  also  a  believer,  or  half-believer,  in 
astrology;  and  I  have  somewhere  in  a  trunk  a  large 
engrossed  horoscope  of  Victor,  predicting  for  him 
almost  incredible  glory  and  greatness. 

As  soon  as  Victor  was  born,  he  became  the  idol 
and  slave  of  this  Sybil.  He  was  a  swarthy  child,  all 
eyes,  and  his  eyes  shone  like  stars,  and  he  was  gen- 
erally in  tears.  The  Sybil  took  him  with  her  wherever 
she  went,  mopped  his  tears  and  got  him  so  that  he 
would  forbear  to  weep  so  long  as  she  was  by.  If  she 
left  him  for  a  half  hour,  however, — there  were  the 
eyes  and  the  tears.  His  slowness  at  book-learning 
made  him  the  despair  of  infant  schools,  and  his  ap- 
titude for  getting  into  danger  made  him  the  terror  of 
nurses  and  guardians.  That  there  was  something 
very  remarkable  about  the  child  everyone  felt;  but 
his  melancholy  gave  us  concern.  When  he  was  eight 
years  old,  there  was  trouble  with  a  canary.  His 
great-grandmother,  who  made  a  pet  of  Victor  and 
used  to  send  him  notes  and  picture-cuttings  from 
the  daily  press,  said  something  disparaging  about 
the  canary  in  one  of  her  notes.  Victor  dissolved 
into  tears,  muttering:  "The  canary  is  better  than  I." 
This  fathomless  humility  he  retained  through  life,  as 
well  as  a  portion  of  his  melancholy. 

When  Victor  was  six  years  old  his  mother  died 
suddenly  in  child-birth,  and  Victor,  who  had  lived 
in  her  as  an  egg  lives  in  its  shell,  who  had  scarcely 
ever  been  out  of  her  sight  or  hearing — for  she  dragged 


i4  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

him  about  as  a  lioness  drags  her  cub — was  left  sus- 
pended in  an  unknown  universe,  with  his  grief  and 
his  visions.  He  mourned,  as  sometimes  a  child  will 
mourn  in  inaccessible  solitude,  pining  and  sinking 
deeper  and  deeper  into  a  stupor.  He  would  stand 
silently  by  the  window  for  hours  and  hours  with 
unshed  tears  in  his  eyes,  watching  the  sky  and  the 
street.  A  loving  Irish  maid-servant,  still  with  us, 
said  to  him,  "Victor,  what  are  you  thinking  about 
when  you  stand  like  that?"  He  replied,  quietly,  "I 
am  thinking  of  some  one,  and  you  know  who." 
His  earliest  schoolmistress,  Miss  Buck,  writes  me 
as  follows:  "I  felt  he  was  cut  out  for  something  un- 
usual, he  seemed  to  ponder  so  over  life.  It  was  during 
that  winter  that  his  mother  died,  and  although  he 
was  so  little,  only  six  or  seven,  I  felt  that  he  had  to 
fight  out  his  troubles  alone.  It  seemed  to  me  that  it 
would  be  intruding  to  try  to  talk  to  him  as  one  might 
to  most  little  fellows.  I  have  a  very  weird  mental 
picture  of  the  thin  little  face  and  wondering  eyes  he 
used  to  turn  up  to  me,  and  I  remember  once  I  found 
him  sitting  on  the  steps  of  the  school-house  in  the 
drizzling  rain,  and  how  shocked  I  was  to  find  him 
there:  and  yet  I  could  not  baby  him.  I  took  him  in 
and  talked  to  him  about  facing  things  and  he  went 
home  alone  to  try  to  help  his  little  brother.  He 
seemed  a  generous  spirit  even  then,  and  when  I  saw 
his  death  in  the  paper,  before  I  had  time  to  reason 
that  it  was  tragic,  it  seemed  a  fitting  end  to  a  life 
destined  from  the  outset  for  something  requiring 
unusual  strength  of  character,  and  one  of  those 


In  Toy  Harness. 


MEMOIR  15 

events  that  do  not  cause  surprise  because  the  mind 
at  once  realizes  they  must  have  happened." 

Victor  always  regarded  me  with  piety;  but  as  for 
being  nourished  and  fed  by  my  ministrations,  it  was 
out  of  the  question.  Not  until  his  stepmother  had 
lived  with  him  and  over  him  for  several  years  did  the 
mystic  past  begin  to  fade  and  the  new  world  open 
around  him.  He  had  a  brother,  also  Minna's  child, 
two  years  younger  than  himself,  and  the  two  were 
passionately  fond  of  each  other.  The  younger  was 
shy,  brilliant,  blond,  handsome  as  a  prince,  and  quite 
a  genius  at  painting.  When  Victor  was  twelve,  the 
younger  was  drowned  almost  before  his  eyes  in  the 
torrent  of  a  rapid  river.  The  child  had  been  left 
alone  by  Victor  for  a  moment,  could  not  swim,  and 
must  have  lost  his  balance  and  fallen  into  the  flood. 

Here  was  grief  indeed  and  the  world  lost  once 
more,  for  a  morbid  child  with  no  apparent  talents 
and  a  gift  of  suffering  such  as  few  natures  possess. 
The  loss  of  this  little  boy  rearranged  the  universe  for 
the  family  in  such  measure  as  those  know  who  have 
passed  through  the  experience,  and  during  the  long 
cataclysm,  Victor  was  not  especially  considered, 
though  he  had  the  bitterest  end  of  it,  for  he  always 
wondered  whether  somehow  he  had  not  been  to 
blame.  But  youth  is  youth  and  survives,  and  within 
a  few  years,  Victor  became  a  dull  and  weedy  school- 
boy, much  alone,  fond  of  the  woods  and  of  nature,  an 
open  air  creature,  a  young  wild  animal.  He  would 
harness  a  gennet  to  a  double  runner  and  drive  at  a 
gallop  about  the  countryside,  standing  on  the  sled 


16  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

and  brandishing  whips  of  his  own  manufacture. 
Indeed  in  his  earlier  years  he  had  sought  the  fields. 
Soon  after  my  second  marriage,  a  guest  in  the  house 
discovered,  what  none  of  us  knew,  that  Victor,  aged 
about  nine  or  ten,  was  in  the  habit  of  rising  at  day- 
break and  roaming  the  countryside.  "Victor,"  said 
the  lady  to  him,  "why  do  you  do  this?"  "Because 
it  is  the  best  time  of  the  day,"  he  said.  "The  light 
is  muzzy  and  all  the  creatures  are  out." 

Victor  never  really  felt  that  he  was  alive  except 
when  he  was  in  danger.  Nothing  else  aroused  his 
faculties.  This  was  not  conscious,  but  natal, — a 
quality  of  the  brain.  As  some  people  need  oxygen,  so 
Victor  needed  danger.  I  have  seen  him  walk  on  the 
roof-tree  of  a  barn — with  his  younger  brother  (the 
painter,  who  had  no  aptitude  for  such  feats)  walking 
behind  him;  and  my  heart  gave  a  squeeze  as  if  some 
one  had  taken  it  in  a  monkey-wrench.  We  were 
always  saving  him,  and  I  had  always  a  greater  fear 
for  the  younger  one  than  for  him.  Everyone  thought 
Victor  bore  a  charmed  life  and  you  couldn't  convince 
his  contemporaries  that  any  harm  could  befall  him, 
so  constantly  would  he  fall  from  the  top  of  a  pine 
tree  and  guide  himself  by  the  branches  as  they  broke 
under  him.  My  sister-in-law  on  one  occasion  saw, 
while  walking  on  the  lawn,  the  silhouette  of  Victor, 
aged  12,  dancing  upon  the  gutter  of  the  mansard  roof. 
He  was  fighting  with  a  nest  of  hornets  whom  he  had 
disturbed,  but  he  did  not  lose  his  presence  of  mind 
as  he  beat  a  retreat.  An  English  friend,  the  Rev. 
Mr.  Dalrymple,  who  acted  as  tutor  to  Victor  during 


Country  Friends. 


MEMOIR  17 

a  visit  to  England,  writes  to  me,  commenting  on 
Victor's  presence  of  mind  and  sang  froid  at  the  age 
of  ten.  During  an  excursion  on  the  Thames  the  boy 
managed  to  fall  into  the  water  from  a  rowboat,  and 
had,  as  his  tutor  thought,  a  narrow  escape  from 
drowning.  On  being  fished  out  of  the  water  Victor 
remarked  that  it  was  lucky  he  had  worn  his  wash- 
suit. 

His  boyhood  showed  many  life-saving  incidents 
to  which  little  attention  was  paid,  and  of  which  no 
record  was  kept, — the  saving  of  a  child  from  drown- 
ing at  a  picnic,  the  rescue  of  his  small  brother  from 
between  cars  that  were  being  coupled,  etc.  The 
following  letter  from  John  Temple  Jeffries,  a  class- 
mate at  Harvard,  was  printed  in  the  Boston  Tran- 
script soon  after  Victor's  death. 

"The  death  of  Corporal  Victor  Chapman  in  an 
aeronautical  battle  in  France  means  much  more 
than  the  loss  of  merely  one  American  gentleman, 
though  that  in  itself  is  bad  enough.  It  means  the 
loss  of  a  man  who  had  all  the  noble  and  chivalrous 
instincts  in  such  overwhelming  proportions  that  it 
was  literally  impossible  for  him  to  act  like  the  average 
person.  It  was  as  though  Prince  Rupert  or  Richard 
Plantagenet  himself  had  stepped  down  from  history. 
Chapman  never  could  bridle  his  intrepidity  enough 
to  avoid  all  rows,  and  he  never  could  suppress  chiv- 
alry enough  to  be  really  politic.  He  was,  besides,  a 
born  soldier,  with  all  the  snap  and  alertness  of 
militarism.  His  unerring  instinct  in  art  would  have 
brought  him  the  highest  honors  inside  of  fifteen  years. 

"Just  five  years  and  a  half  ago,  I  think,  Chapman 
declined  to  follow  me  across  some  ice  floes  half  a 


1 8  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

mile  out  to  sea  because  the  going  was  palpably  un- 
safe, and  inside  of  ten  minutes  he  had  saved  my  life 
by  returning  and  working  out  to  sea  till  he  finally 
hooked  me  out  from  the  icy  water  on  the  muzzle  end 
of  a  loaded  and  cocked  rifle.  Nothing  could  be  more 
typical  of  him.  His  death  in  France  resulted  from 
again  trying  to  save  his  friends'  lives. 

"If  long  and  distinguished  ancestry,  the  presence  of 
all  a  man's  virtues  and  the  absence  of  all  vices  count 
for  much,  then  Harvard  has  lost  one  of  the  greatest 
gentlemen  that  ever  studied  at  that  university." 

I  have  the  following  story  from  one  of  his  com- 
rades in  the  Foreign  Legion.  When  Victor  was  in  the 
trenches,  his  Captain,  upon  one  occasion,  had  to  take 
a  pistol  to  him  to  prevent  his  attempting  the  rescue 
of  a  comrade  who  was  engulfed  in  a  neighboring  mine 
explosion.  Victor's  anger  was  so  great  at  being  with- 
held from  doing  what  seemed  to  him  the  merest  act  of 
decency  that,  in  the  words  of  the  relator,  "//  en  est 
devenu  malade" 

He  had  no  aptitude  for  sports,  none  for  books,  none 
for  music;  but  always  a  deep  passion  for  color  and 
scenery,  and  a  real  talent  for  all  forms  of  decoration, 
which  we  hoped  would  lead  him  toward  painting  or 
architecture.  His  water-color  sketches,  done  in 
1913-14  in  Paris,  showed  a  great  advance  on  earlier 
work;  but  the  dreamerwas  still  in  his  dream, — and  art 
is  concentration.  His  pleasure  was  in  scenery.  If 
you  could  place  him  in  a  position  of  danger  and  let 
him  watch  scenery,  he  was  in  heaven.  I  do  not  think 
he  was  ever  completely  happy  in  his  life  till  the  day 
he  got  his  flying  papers. 


MEMOIR  19 

It  will  be  seen  that  Victor  belonged  to  a  well-known 
type  of  nature  which  develops  slowly.  All  those 
necessary  stimuli  which  the  world  has  invented  to 
encourage  the  ambition  and  awaken  the  intelligence 
of  boys  were  applied  to  him  in  the  approved  manner, 
both  at  home  and  at  various  schools,  but  fell  upon 
him  as  appeals  to  a  sleeping  thing, — disturbing,  sad 
and  terrible  voices.  Whether  they  could  ever  have 
called  him  out  of  his  own  world  into  ours  cannot  be 
known.  As  it  is,  the  few  "trivial  fond  records"  of 
him  which  survive,  give  us  a  glimpse  into  the  cloudy, 
starry  place  he  lived  in.  During  the  last  few  years, 
I  was  sometimes  disturbed  by  his  lack  of  interest 
in  women  and  by  his  relations  to  them,  which 
were  either  social  or  seraphic — for  he  was  an 
angel  in  these  matters  of  sex.  He  was  untoucha- 
ble and  world-wise  even  from  early  youth.  In 
the  understanding  of  other  people's  sorrows,  he 
was  wise  beyond  his  years  and  as  discreet  as  an 
oak  tree. 

As  an  influence  upon  his  younger  brothers,  he  dis- 
played the  qualities,  one  might  say,  of  all  the  different 
ages  at  once.  He  was  youthful,  benign,  humorous, 
astute,  far-sighted,  impersonal  and  affectionate.  He 
was  of  course  regarded  by  them  as  a  demigod,  partly 
because  they  were  clever  and  he  was  not  clever,  only 
large.  There  was  something  like  a  big  dog  about 
him,  a  helpless  quality.  He  needed  attention;  and 
inactivity  brought  with  it  sad  moods  and  the  phan- 
tom hounds  of  inner  reproach.  Not  that  he  ever  did 
anything  to  deserve  reproach, — except  the  giving 


20  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

way  to  this  very  inactivity.  I  recall,  as  I  write,  cer- 
tain rare,  short  outbursts  of  unmeaning  fierceness 
which  passed  over  him, — as  in  a  wolf  that  is  domes- 
ticated. At  such  times  he  would  speak  strangely  to 
those  who  loved  him  most.  For  me  he  had  that  ex- 
treme piety  toward  the  parent  which  prevails  in 
Semitic  tribes.  He  was  also  very  fond  of  me,  and 
proud  of  me;  and  our  relations  were  perfect.  Yet 
once  in  two  years  he  would  unexpectedly  bark  at  me 
and  paw  the  ground,  as  if  I  and  the  whole  universe 
I  lived  in  were  intolerable  to  his  soul.  When  he  was 
a  small  boy  these  gusts  of  passion  alarmed  me,  and 
I  used  to  warn  him  that  he  might  kill  his  best  friend 
in  one  of  them,  and  then  become  a  prey  to  everlasting 
remorse.  But  in  fact  he  never  took  action  while  in 
these  fits.  They  were  explosions  of  an  energy  which 
darkly  collected  in  him  and  which  needed  ambition 
as  its  outlet. 

Let  him  serve  some  one  and  he  leaped  with  great 
bounds  to  do  it.  He  would  put  up  a  wood-shed,  or 
build  a  pier,  if  there  were  an  excuse  for  being  useful. 
In  his  physical  force,  large  frame,  and  need  for  man- 
ual labor,  he  resembled  his  mother,  and  there  was 
something  in  him  that  always  reminded  me  of  Mil- 
ton's lines: — 

"Tells  how  the  drudging  Goblin  sweat 
To  earn  his  cream-bowl  duly  set, 
When  in  one  night,  ere  glimpse  of  morn 
His  shadowy  flail  had  threshed  the  corn 
That  ten  day-laborers  could  not  end; 
Then  lies  him  down  the  lubber  fiend, 


Home  for  the  Holidays. 


MEMOIR  21 

And  stretched  out  all  the  chimney's  length, 
Basks  by  the  fire  his  hairy  strength; 
And  cropful  out  of  door  he  flings, 
Ere  the  first  cock  his  matin  rings." 

Victor  could  eat  anything,  sleep  on  anything,  lift 
anything,  endure  anything.  He  never  had  enough  of 
roughing  it  till  he  joined  the  Foreign  Legion,  and  his 
year  in  the  trenches'  made  him  taller,  straighter, 
compacter,  and  gave  him  the  walk,  smile  and  eye 
of  a  self-confident  man.  It  was  the  cause  that  made 
a  man  of  him.  Here  was  a  thing  that  was  big 
enough. 

Just  before  his  enlistment  in  August,  1914,  there 
occurred  a  scene  between  Victor,  his  stepmother  and 
myself,  which  was  our  domestic  part  of  the  great  war 
drama.  No  doubt  millions  of  families  on  which  the 
wheels  of  fate  were  then  turning,  can  recall  similar 
little  dramas  in  which  the  dies  of  life  and  death  were 
thrown  for  them.  We  were  all  in  a  London  hotel, 
having  fled  the  Continent  at  the  mobilization.  The 
English  people  were  singing  the  Marseillaise  in  front 
of  the  Parliament  Houses.  Victor  had  been  prowling 
about  in  a  lonely  way  for  twenty-four  hours,  and  he 
now,  with  a  sort  of  hang-dog  humility,  suggested  that 
he  was  going  to  enlist.  I  reasoned  with  him.  With 
that  stupidity  which  is  the  natural  gift  of  parents,  I 
probed  his  conscience  and  suggested  that  perhaps  it 
was  merely  a  random  desire  to  see  life  and  get  rid 
of  his  serious  duties  that  led  him  to  the  idea  of  en- 
listment. He  concurred,  with  dumb  diffidence,  and 
said:  "No  doubt  this  must  be  it."  My  wife  says  that 


22  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

I  called  him  a  quitter  and  held  him  up  to  the  scorn  of 
just  men.  But  my  own  idea  was  that  I  was  only 
preventing  the  lad  from  doing  something  which  was 
not  fundamentally  his  duty.  He  submitted.  I  sup- 
posed he  was  merely  being  rational;  but  there  was  a 
something  in  his  voice  and  manner,  something,  I 
know  not  what,  of  a  soul-tragedy,  that  struck  his 
stepmother  and  gave  her  a  vision  of  a  ruined  life. 
And  as  soon  as  Victor  had  left  the  room,  she  said: 
"He  has  submitted  through  his  humility  and  through 
his  reverence  for  you.  But  I  had  rather  see  him  lying 
on  the  battlefield  than  see  that  look  on  his  face." 
Within  a  week,  he  was  in  France. 

At  the  time  of  his  enlistment  and  during  his  entire 
service,  he  received  advice,  assistance  and  constant 
care  from  my  wife's  brother,  William  Astor  Chanler, 
then  living  in  Paris,  who  became  for  him  rather  a 
second  father  than  an  uncle.  The  old  buccaneer  and 
the  young  one  understood  each  other  perfectly,  as 
may  be  seen  in  many  of  Victor's  letters,  which  con- 
cern boots,  periscopes,  eye-glasses,  under-clothes, 
chocolate  and  small  talk.  Victor  seems  to  have 
commandeered  every  resource  of  his  uncle  with  the 
confidence  of  a  spoiled  child.  He  treated  Augustus 
F.  Jaccaci,  then  in  Paris,  with  much  the  same  free- 
dom. Victor  never  seems  to  thank  either  of 
them,  but  to  live  upon  them  as  on  conquered 
territory. 

The  following  sketch  by  Alexandre  Mavroudi, 
which  appeared  in  the  French  Journal,  I'Opinion,  of 
July  i,  gives  a  picture  of  Victor's  life  in  the  Legion. 


MEMOIR  23 

The  material  was  furnished  by  a  fellow  Legionnaire 
and  great  friend  of  Victor's,  Kisling  the  Polish 
painter. 


During  the  first  days  of  the  war  Chapman's  com- 
pany was  set  to  digging  trenches  in  the  neighborhood 
of  Paris.  The  young  Yankee  set  to  work  with  in- 
credible vim.  He  chopped,  hacked  and  digged,  hour 
after  hour  without  a  pause.  The  captain  noticed  him. 
"Say,  you  there,  were  you  a  ditch-digger  in  private 
life?"  "You're  off  there,  captain,"  said  a  bystander, 
"he's  a  millionaire."  But  Victor  Chapman  had  the 
American  point  of  view  about  money.  Money  is  for 
necessaries,  for  gay  whims  and  to  help  a  friend. 
Money  relieves  no  one  from  work,  obligation  or  duty. 
Money  multiplies  energy,  but  should  never  paralyze 
it. 

"Chapman,  you're  on  the  potato  squad  today." 
"Good,  come  along!"  And  the  rich  American  starts 
peeling  potatoes  rapidly,  conscientiously,  as  if  he 
had  done  nothing  else  all  his  life. 

After  some  weeks  of  training  his  regiment  left 
Paris  for  the  front.  Chapman  was  a  mitrailleur. 
He  had  to  set  up  his  gun  in  a  shelter;  with  the  help 
of  a  Polish  comrade,  the  mathematician  Kohn,  he 
set  to  work  building  the  shelter.  You  would  think  he 
had  the  paws  of  a  beaver.  The  walls  rise  on  the  sight; 
in  three  days  the  cabin  is  ready.  But  a  window-sill  is 
lacking.  Where  can  one  be  found  ?  Chapman  starts 
on  a  search  in  a  neighboring  village  and  comes  back 
with  a  wonderful  Louis  XVI  sill  on  his  shoulder. 
The  cabin  became  the  reading-room  of  the  section. 
He  received  almost  all  the  Paris  newspapers  and 
magazines,  not  to  speak  of  novels  and  volumes  of 
poetry.  One  day  he  also  received  a  book  from 


24  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

America.  Chapman  undid  the  parcel,  and  buried 
himself  in  his  cabin,  when  he  came  out  some  hours 
later  he  was  joyful,  exuberant;  he  had  read  at  a 
sitting  the  anti-German  book  that  his  father  had 
published  in  New  York  to  enlighten  those  fellows 
over  there. 

But  more  trenches  had  got  to  be  digged,  more 
passageways,  more  cellars.  The  havoc  caused  by  the 
enemies'  guns  must  be  repaired  from  day  to  day* 
The  Legionnaires  worked  hard,  and  Chapman  hardest 
of  all.  At  night  we  saw  his  figure  outlined  against 
the  darkness,  and  the  sound  of  his  pick-axe  broke  the 
stillness  while  all  others  slept.  Chapman  had  come 
"to  work"  against  the  Germans  and  he  did  it  with  all 
his  might. 

One  morning  he  felt  a  twinge  in  his  arm  and  some- 
thing warm  running  down  inside  his  sleeve.  "Hello! 
I've  a  ball  in  my  skin."  He  had  it  bandaged  by  a 
comrade,  and  never  thought  of  going  to  the  Surgeon. 
The  Surgeon  looked  him  up.  "You're  to  be  sent  to 
the  rear."  "Why?"  "To  be  looked  after  at  the 
hospital."  "My  friend  understands  bandaging  as 
well  as  a  nurse.  Let  us  attend  to  it,  Sir.  I  don't 
want  to  play  hookey."  Chapman's  theory  was  that 
every  man  who  had  an  ounce  of  strength  left  in  him 
and  who  left  the  front  line  was  shirking. 

One  day  a  mitrailleur  came  up  to  him  saying,  "I'm 
sick.  The  major  has  ordered  me  to  drink  milk  for 
two  weeks;  but  there  isn't  any  here.  They're  going 
to  send  me  to  the  rear,  and  I'm  bored  with  the  no- 
tion." "Good,"  said  Victor.  "Stay  where  you  are: 
I'll  settle  it."  At  dinner  time  Chapman  disappeared. 
That  evening  the  section  saw  him  returning  accom- 
panied by  a  cow  which  he  was  dragging  behind  him. 
"I  bought  her  so  that  you  could  get  your  milk,"  said 
he  to  the  sick  mitrailleur.  "Now  you  can  stay  with 


MEMOIR  25 

us."    Chapman  was  the  Maecenas  of  the  regiment,  the 
master  of  revels,  the  friend  of  all. 

His  high  spirits  were  contagious.  He  was  only 
seen  to  weep  once.  It  was  the  day  his  chum  Kohn, 
the  mathematician,  was  mortally  wounded.  Chap- 
man carried  him  in  his  arms  to  the  first  aid.  "Save 
him,  sir,"  he  cried,  his  voice  broken  with  sobs,  "and 
I'll  give  you  a  hundred  thousand  francs."  The  Major 
surgeon  was  too  cut  up  even  to  smile.  "All  is  over, 
my  friend,  control  yourself." 


Victor's  entry  into  the  American  Aviation  was,  to 
him,  like  being  made  a  Knight.  It  transformed, — 
one  might  almost  say, — transfigured  him.  That  the 
universe  should  have  supplied  this  spirit  with  the 
consummation  which  it  had  sought  from  infancy  and 
should  have  given,  in  a  few  weeks,  complete  happi- 
ness and  complete  fulfillment, — the  crown  of  a  life 
to  which  one  can  imagine  no  other  perfect  ending, — 
is  one  of  the  mysteries  of  this  divine  age.  We  see  the 
crushing  misery  of  much  that  is  in  progress.  Let  us 
also  see  the  new  releasing  into  humanity  of  infinite 
courage,  hope  and  power.  I  have  not  sought  to  sift 
out  the  true  story  of  his  last  fight.  That  he  set  out 
to  the  rescue  of  his  companions  I  can  well  believe. 
He  was  himself  rescued  many  times  by  them  in  pre- 
vious combats.  To  go  to  each  other's  rescue  was 
their  daily  and  hourly  business. 

If  Victor  could  have  known  the  way  in  which  his 
death  has  brought  special  notice  upon  him,  he  would 
have  been  amazed,  ashamed, — nay,  have  been  rough 
and  unpleasant  about  it.  All  true  soldiers  feel  like 


26  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

this.  They  feel  that  they  are  enclosed  within  a  force 
not  themselves,  and  form  a  part  of  a  sort  of  church 
triumphant — though  they  can  often  express  them- 
selves only  by  swearing.  Praise  strikes  them  as  a 
lie,  if  not  as  a  kind  of  blasphemy.  All  the  men  fight- 
ing for  the  Allies,  and  especially  all  those  young 
Americans  who  have  been  fighting  for  France  and 
England,  and  thereby  doing  more  for  their  own 
country  than  for  Europe,  should  be  in  our  minds 
when  we  think  of  any  one  of  them.  They  form  a  sin- 
gle soul  and  spirit. 

The  enthusiasm  which  broke  out  in  France  at  the 
time  of  Victor's  death,  and  was  reflected  in  this 
country,  was  due  to  many  causes.  He  was  the  first 
American  aviator  to  fall.  He  was  killed  just  before 
the  fourth  of  July,  1916.  His  year  in  the  Legion  had 
made  him  known  to  many,  and  the  fighting  qualities 
of  the  newly-formed  American  Escadrille  had  already 
given  that  body  a  place  in  history.  These  American 
Volunteers  whom  we  had  thought  might  be  lost  in 
the  melee  were  thus  received  into  the  light  where 
burned  the  soul  of  the  war;  in  their  death  they  were 
canonized.  The  great  fact  behind  all  was  this:  the 
French  people  were  living  in  a  state  of  sacrificial 
enthusiasm  for  which  history  shows  no  parallel. 
Their  gratitude  to  those  who  espoused  their  cause 
was  such  as  to  magnify  and  exalt  heroism.  The 
French  press  blazed  with  spontaneous  paeans.  The 
American  Church  became,  as  it  were,  the  shrine  of 
both  nations  at  Victor's  funeral  on  July  4th. 

Piety  compels  me  to  reprint  some  of  the  French 


MEMOIR  27 

tributes;  because  they  were  made  not  to  Victor,  but 
to  the  American  people. 

The  following  is  from  Mme.  le  Verrier:  "I  have 
just  left  the  Church  in  the  Avenue  d'Alma,  after 
attending  the  service  in  honor  of  your  son.  The 
ceremony  was  very  touching  in  its  simplicity.  The 
chancel  was  draped  with  two  great  flags  and  dec- 
orated with  flowers;  two  small  flags  and  other  flowers 
were  on  the  altar.  The  women  about  me  were  in 
tears.  It  was  a  sad  celebration  of  your  Independence 
Day,  and  brought  home  to  me  the  beauty  of  heroic 
death  and  the  meaning  of  life. 

"When  we  first  learned  of  the  event,  and  after  the 
first  moment's  stupor  had  passed,  we  felt  a  renewal  of 
energy.  Everyone  is  talking  of  this  disinterested 
devotion, — much  greater  even  than  that  of  our  own 
men,  who  are  fighting  for  their  own  country  as  well 
as  for  ideal  ends.  But  the  self-sacrifice  of  this  one 
who  comes  to  us,  and  places  himself  at  our  side,  for 
no  other  reason  than  to  make  right  triumph  over 
wrong,  is  worthy  of  peculiar  honor.  It  comforts 
those  who  are  in  the  struggle  and  shows  the  road  to 
those  who  doubt.  On  all  sides  people  speak  with 
admiration  and  gratitude  of  the  details,  tragic  and 
touching  as  they  are,  of  his  trip  to  his  friend,  of  the 
little  basket  of  oranges,  of  his  headlong  plunge  to 
save  his  comrades.  America  has  sent  us  this  sublime 
youth  and  our  gratitude  for  him  is  such  that  it  flows 
back  upon  his  country.  Wherever  I  go  I  am  asked 
about  him.  Never  since  the  outbreak  of  the  war  has 
public  sentiment  been  more  deeply  aroused." 


28  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

Mr.  Briand,  the  prime  minister  of  France,  in  speak- 
ing at  the  Banquet  of  the  American  Chamber  of 
Commerce  in  Paris  on  the  evening  of  July  4,  paid  a 
long  tribute  to  the  United  States  and  instanced  the 
various  kinds  of  aid  that  its  citizens  had  given  to 
France.  In  the  course  of  his  address  he  spoke  of  the 
American  aviators,  and  mentioned  Chapman  as  "the 
living  symbol  of  American  idealism. "  "France,"  he 
said,  "will  never  forget  this  new  comradeship,  this 
evidence  of  a  devotion  to  a  common  ideal." 

On  July  7,  the  president  of  the  French  Republic 
sent  me  a  telegram  as  follows.  "I  beg  to  offer  you 
my  perfect  sympathy.  In  your  son  who  has  died  in 
the  most  just  of  all  causes  I  hail  a  worthy  rival  of  the 
brothers  in  arms  of  Lafayette." 

Mr.  Jusserand,  the  French  Ambassador  at  Wash- 
ington, said  at  the  banquet  on  Lafayette  Day,  New 
York,  Sept.  6,  1916.  "Never  in  my  country  will  the 
American  volunteers  of  the  Great  War  be  forgotten; 
some,  according  to  their  power,  offering  their  pen, 
or  their  money,  or  their  help  to  our  wounded,  or  their 
life.  There  is  not  one  form  of  suffering,  among  the 
innumerable  kinds  of  calamities  caused  by  a  merciless 
enemy,  that  some  American  work  has  not  tried  to 
assuage.  In  the  hospitals,  in  the  schools  for  the 
maimed  and  blind,  in  the  ruins  of  formerly  prosperous 
villages,  on  the  battlefields,  in  the  trenches,  nay,  in 
the  air,  with  your  plucky  aviators,  the  American 
name  is  blessed;  in  the  trenches — where  those  kits 
named  after  the  hero  of  to-day,  the  Lafayette  Kits, 
have  brought  comfort  to  so  many  soldiers,  in  re- 


MEMOIR  29 

membrance  of  what  Lafayette  himself  had  done  in 
his  time. 

"You  are  indeed  a  nation  that  remembers.  When 
Lafayette  revisited  West  Point  in  1825,  one  of  the 
orators  alluded  to  his  having  provided  shoes  for  the 
army  at  Valley  Forge  and  proposed  this  toast:  'To 
the  noble  Frenchman  who  placed  the  Army  of  the 
Revolution  on  a  new  and  better  footing.'  More 
than  one  of  our  soldiers  is,  owing  to  you,  on  a  better 
footing. 

"Serving  in  the  Ambulances,  serving  in  the 
Legion,  serving  in  the  air,  serving  Liberty,  obeying 
the  same  impulse  as  that  which  brought  Lafayette 
to  these  shores,  many  young  Americans  leaving 
family  and  home,  have  offered  to  France  their  lives. 
Those  lives  many  have  lost  and  never,  even  in  antique 
times,  was  there  shown  such  abnegation  and  generos- 
ity, such  firmness  of  character;  men  like  Victor  Chap- 
man who  dies  to  rescue  his  American  and  French  co- 
aviators  nearly  overcome  by  a  more  numerous 
enemy  ...  or  that  Richard  Hall  killed  by  a  shell 
while  on  the  search  for  our  wounded,  and  whose 
mother  hesitated  to  accept  a  permit  to  visit  his 
flower-wreathed  tomb  at  the  front,  'because  French 
mothers  are  not  allowed  to  do  so;'  or  that  Harvard 
graduate,  the  poet  of  the  Legion,  Alan  Seeger,  who 
felt  that  his  hour  could  not  be  far  remote,  and  who,  in 
the  expectation  of  it,  had  written  from  the  blood- 
soaked  battlefield  where  he  had  fought  for  liberty: 
'The  Frenchman  who  goes  up  is  possessed  with  a 
passion  beside  which  any  of  the  other  forms  of  expe- 


30  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

rience  that  are  reckoned  to  make  life  worth  while 
seem  pale  in  comparison.  ...  It  is  a  privilege  to 
march  at  his  side — so  much  so  that  nothing  that  the 
world  could  give  could  make  me  wish  myself  any- 
where else  than  where  I  am.' ' 

M.  Emile  Boutroux,  the  venerable  dean  of  French 
Philosophy,  wrote  an  article  for  Le  Temps  of  July  5, 
in  which  after  sketching  the  early  stages  of  the 
American  Escadrille,  he  said:  "It  was  this  picked 
corps  that  Victor  Chapman  joined  after  six  months 
of  apprenticeship.  How  happy  he  was  at  this 
chance  of  working,  fighting  and  being  useful  with 
all  the  powers  he  possessed  I  could  judge  from  the 
visit  he  paid  me  shortly  afterwards.  His  simplicity 
and  good  humor  were  charming.  I  complimented 
him  on  his  French.  'Oh,'  said  he,  'my  French  is  the 
French  of  the  poilus;  I  don't  understand  all  the 
words  I  use,  and  I'm  not  sure  they  are  all  used  in  the 
polite  world,  but  of  course  I  speak  as  my  comrades 
do.'  It  would  be  impossible  to  unite  more  of  the 
gaiety  and  tranquility  of  youth,  more  sweetness  and 
simplicity,  with  more  decision  and  the  energy  of 
character  than  Victor  Chapman  showed.  He  was  em- 
inently a  soldier.  In  a  service  where  one  is  thrown 
upon  one's  own  resources,  he  was  duty  incarnate,  he 
thought  only  of  doing  the  business  in  hand  as  well  as 
possible  and  in  contempt  of  all  danger.  His  in- 
trepidity was  extreme;  and  in  the  midst  of  the  nerv- 
ous tension  which  such  expeditions  give  rise  to,  he 
retained  an  absolute  composure  and  presence  of 
mind." 


MEMOIR  31 

After  giving  some  accounts  of  the  fighting,  Mr. 
Boutroux  concludes:  "Such  is  the  devotion,  such  are 
the  high  principles,  such  is  the  simple  and  true  grand- 
eur of  which  the  American  soul  is  capable.  Such  also 
are  the  reverence,  the  profound  love  which  France  in- 
spires in  men  who  are  an  honor  to  humanity.  What 
recompense  can  our  labors  have,  equal  to  the  tes- 
timony of  this  kind,  borne  by  witnesses  like  these! 
No;  the  great  interpreters  of  the  human  conscience 
were  not  mistaken.  To  die,  rather  than  betray  the 
cause  of  right  and  justice,  this  is  not  to  die,  but  to 
become  immortal.  It  means  not  merely  to  live  in 
the  imagination  of  posterity,  but  to  leave  behind  one 
those  deeds  of  faith  and  virtue  which,  soon  or  late, 
assure  the  triumph  of  right." 

I  add  a  few  letters  and  sketches,  which  the  general 
reader  may  skip  if  so  inclined,  but  toward  which  he 
will  be  indulgent,  remembering  that  a  volume  of  this 
kind  always  serves  as  a  little  memorial  for  family  and 
for  friends.  The  first  is  a  dictation  taken  down  by 
Mr.  Jaccaci  from  the  lips  of  Louis  Bley,  Victor's 
mecano.  The  document  is  so  striking  in  the  original 
French,  that  I  have  reprinted  it  in  a  page  of  appendix. 
One  feels  in  reading  it  that  each  flyer  is  the  bravest 
of  all  in  the  eyes  of  his  devoted  mecano. 

"That  day,  the  day  of  his  death,  there  was  a  sortie 
over  Verdun  in  the  morning.  Chapman  was  in  it, 
and  returned  at  nine  o'clock,  making  a  rough  land- 
ing, which  resulted  in  breaking  a  sandow.  But  just 
then  they  signalled  us  that  the  Boches  were  com- 
ing over  Bar-le-duc.  I  was  repairing  the  sandow, 


32  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

but  he  took  all  my  tools  from  me  and  threw  them 
away,  saying,  'Leave  that  alone,  I  must  go  and 
see  the  Boches.'  I  told  him  that  he  couldn't  go 
with  the  broken  sandow,  and  that  I  wouldn't  stand 
for  it,  as  that  state  of  things  was  too  dangerous;  he 
might  capsize,  or  have  an  accident  in  landing.  For 
answer  he  said,  '  It's  all  one  to  me  capsizing,' — which 
meant,  'It's  all  one  to  me  if  only  I  can  down  a  Boche.' 
But  he  didn't  get  off.  After  this  he  went  to  lunch, 
and  since  there  was  to  be  a  sortie  at  half-past  twelve, 
I  changed  his  sparking  plugs.  He  returned  at  twelve 
fifteen  and  asked  if  the  machine  was  ready.  I  said 
yes.  He  was  delighted,  and  said  he  would  try  it. 
He  gave  me  a  big  bundle  of  newspapers  with  some 
oranges  and  chocolate  and  said,  'I  shall  take  a  turn 
over  the  lines,  and  when  I  get  back  I  shall  stop  at 
Vatlincour  (behind  Verdun),  I  shall  take  the  oranges 
and  chocolate  to  poor  Balsley  at  the  hospital,  for  I 
think  there  is  little  hope  of  saving  him.'  Then  I 
put  the  package,  the  oranges  and  chocolate  in  place 
for  him  to  carry  to  his  comrade.  He  shook  hands 
with  me  and  was  off,  saying,  'Au  revoir,  I  shall  not 
be  long.' 

:<  Two  days  before,  they  were  mending  his  machine- 
gun,  but  seeing  his  companions  fly  off,  he  ran  to  his 
machine,  jumped  in  and  he  went  off  without  his 
combination, — that  is,  in  his  ordinary  clothes,  above 
the  enemies'  lines. 

"On  his  former  trip  over  Verdun,  which  he  made 
with  his  80  horsepower  machine,  he  was  wounded  by 
a  ball  that  grazed  his  scalp;  a  trifle  lower  down  and 


MEMOIR  33 

he  would  have  been  killed.  In  this  sortie  a  ball 
had  cut  the  warping  control,  a  bullet  had  cut  the 
turn-buckle  of  a  wing  and  pierced  a  wheel;  an  explo- 
sive bullet  had  passed  through  the  support  which 
holds  up  the  top  plane;  an  explosive  bullet  had  passed 
through  the  wind-shield  and  a  bullet  had  grazed  the 
varnish  of  the  fuselage  and  it  was  this  last  bullet 
which  grazed  his  skull. 

"He  came  down  at  Vatlincourt  to  have  the  wound 
dressed,  and  returned  to  our  barracks  at  Bar-le-Duc 
at  half-past  three,  and  as  there  was  to  be  a  sortie  over 
Verdun  at  four  he  wanted  to  be  off  again  in  spite  of 
his  wound.  Captain  Thenault  forbade  this;  and  for 
his  courage  promised  him  a  machine  of  no  horse- 
power. Chapman  was  very  happy.  It  was  on  the 
Verdun  sortie  with  this  machine  that  he  was  killed. 

"Once  at  Luxeuil-les-Bains  he  came  in  after  an 
explosive  bullet  had  passed  through  the  body  of  the 
fuselage,  come  out  on  the  side,  and  exploded  against 
the  turn-buckle.  This  same  time  a  bullet  entered  his 
left  sleeve  and  passed  through,  grazing  the  flesh 
and  slightly  burning  the  skin.  The  afternoon  of 
the  same  day,  after  another  sortie,  he  returned  with 
a  bullet  through  the  aluminum  bonnet  of  the  motor. 
In  order  not  to  be  visible  in  his  new  machine  (this 
80  horsepower  machine  was  an  entirely  white  ma- 
chine, the  no  was  painted  green  like  grass),  he  had 
amused  himself  two  days  before  his  death  by  scratch- 
ing off  the  green  paint  with  a  coin  of  ten  centimes,  so 
as  to  make  the  machine  less  visible.  I,  his  mechan- 
ician, had  painted  the  fuselage  a  pale  gray.  The 


34  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

paint  was  not  dry  next  day  when  Chapman  learned 
that  the  Boches  were  over  Verdun,  and  was  off  all 
the  same  with  the  paint  wet.  I  didn't  like  this,  and 
told  him  he  had  better  wait.  He  refused,  and  said, 
'Who  cares  for  paint!  If  I  bring  down  my  Boche, 
that's  as  good  as  a  new  coat  of  paint.' 

"Once  he  attacked  a  Boche  and  came  within 
twelve  feet  of  him.  He  told  me  that  his  propeller 
almost  touched  the  upper  plane  of  the  Boche,  and 
he  could  have  shot  him  point  blank  with  his  revolver, 
which  he  had  by  him  always  when  he  flew,  but  he 
couldn't  get  it  from  the  case  while  manceuvering. 

"Another  time  he  was  three  hours  and  twenty 
minutes  over  the  German  lines,  and  came  down  with 
only  three  litres  of  gasolene  in  his  tank, — a  very 
dangerous  thing. 

"Once  he  flew  on  one  day  for  seven  hours  over  the 
German  lines.  He  made  70  miles  in  the  air  with  his 
80  horsepower  machine  without  breaking  anything. 
He  was  a  marvellous  pilot.  Whether  on  guard  or 
not,  as  soon  as  the  Boche  flyers  were  signalled,  he 
would  jump  into  his  machine  and  was  off.  There 
was  not  another  like  him. 

"For  flights  over  the  German  lines  he  was  always 
the  first  to  start  and  the  last  to  come  home,  and 
always  flew  alone.  If  one  of  his  comrades  was  in 
danger  he  rushed  to  his  aid.  But  he  himself  never 
noticed  whether  he  was  followed  up  or  supported. 
He  was  the  bravest  of  all. 

"Once  he  ran  into  fifteen  Boche  planes,  and  flew 
at  them,  aiming  at  the  bunch.  When  he  came  back 


MEMOIR  35 

Captain  Thenault  scolded  him,  but  he  took  it  lightly. 
His  answer  was  always,  'If  I  can  get  a  Boche.": 

The  following  is  an  extract  from  a  long  and  gen- 
erous letter  from  Captain  Thenault,  Captain  of  the 
American  Escadrille.  "Our  grief  was  extreme  for  we 
loved  him  deeply.  At  the  moments  of  greatest 
danger  in  the  air  we  could  always  discover  the 
silhouette  of  his  machine,  that  machine  which  he 
managed  with  so  much  ease.  One  of  my  pilotes  has 
just  said  to  me,  *  Would  that  I  had  fallen  instead  of 
him.'  With  the  army  at  Verdun  his  bravery  was 
legendary,  and  hardly  a  day  passed  without  some 
exploit  from  which  he  returned  with  his  machine 
pierced  by  bullets  and  sometimes  slightly  wounded 
himself.  He  was  to  have  received  the  Medaille 
Militaire  when  death  took  him.  A  citation  with  the 
croix  de  guerre  will  speak  for  a  small  part  of  what  he 
did." 

The  following  sentences  are  from  a  letter  of 
Sergeant  McConnell  of  the  American  Escadrille  to 
Henry  M.  Suckley,  of  the  American  Ambulance 
Corps  (afterwards  decorated  for  conspicuous  bravery 
under  fire,  and  recently  killed  near  Saloniki).  I 
preserve  them  because  they  would  have  pleased 
Victor.  "We  are  all  terribly  grieved  over  the  death 
of  poor  old  Victor.  He  was  the  best  and  bravest  of 
us  all  and  I  admired  him  more  than  any  man  I  knew. 
He  was  a  wonderful  character,  and  a  great  loss  to 
the  world  as  well  as  to  the  French  Army.  As  a 
soldier  he  was  the  most  conscientious  I  have  ever 
known." 


36  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

The  following  letter  is  from  my  friend  M.  Andre 
Chevrillon,  the  French  author: 

My  dear  Chapman: 

I  cannot  tell  our  grief.  I  had  the  news  only  yes- 
terday— on  my  return  from  the  British  front  by  a 
letter  from  my  wife;  and  in  the  evening  the  Temps 
gave  fuller  particulars.  I  enclose  the  cutting.  It  is 
short,  but  what  it  says  is  among  the  things  of  this 
war  that  will  sink  deepest  in  the  memory  of  our 
people.  No  soldier's  death  in  our  modern  battle  has 
so  much  of  the  truly  epic  as  the  feat  and  the  fate  that 
are  described  here.  They  carry  us  back  to  the 
legendary  times  in  which  everything  was  pure  and 
beautiful — to  the  times  of  the  Mediaeval  Knight  who 
ran,  single-handed,  with  his  cry  of  "A  la  rescussel" 
to  the  help  of  a  surrounded  and  overwhelmed  con- 
federate— to  the  time  of  Roland  and  his  preux,  nay, 
of  the  Greek,  Homeric  hero.  That  word  hero  is  now 
commonly  used  for  all  those  who  die  on  the  battle- 
field,— but  they  are  the  obscure  heroes,  of  whom  the 
numbers  only  and  nothing  individual  will  be  re- 
corded by  history.  The  death  fight  of  Victor  Chap- 
man touches  our  imagination  with  fire.  Be  assured 
that  his  name  will  stand  forever  in  France.  He  died 
whilst  rescuing, — en  combat  singulier, — three  French- 
men. That  name  will  become  a  new  symbol,  and  far 
more  moving  than  any  of  the  old  links  between  our 
nations,  and  the  name  of  America  will  partake  of  its 
glamour.  Morally  the  sacrifice  more  than  makes  up 
for  all  that  you  resented  so  much  in  the  attitude  of 
your  present  government.  You  may  indeed  be  proud 
of  your  son.  In  those  last  minutes  of  his  life  he  rose  to 
the  front  rank  of  what  we  call  here  our  Saints:  he 
carved  his  own  statue;  it  has  the  essential  simplicity 
of  the  supremely  beautiful. 

And  we  also  are  proud  to  have  known  him.    He 


MEMOIR  37 

used  to  come  to  us  quite  simply,  dropping  in  like  an 
old  friend;  and  the  fact  is  that  from  his  first  visit  we 
felt  as  if  we  had  known  him  for  years.  He  learned  to 
feel  more  at  home  in  our  St.  Cloud  house,  which  is 
almost  country.  My  wife  felt  with  him  as  if  he  was 
one  of  her  big  nephews,  and  the  children  had  a  shout 
of  joy  when  they  heard  his  voice  downstairs.  We 
loved'  him  for  his  simplicity,  his  gentleness,  his 
modesty,  his  perfect  tact,  and  what  we  guessed  of  his 
courage.  Only  once  did  we  perceive  that  he  knew 
his  risk.  Some  one  asked  him  if  he  would  go  on  in 
France  with  his  art  studies  after  the  war.  He  seemed 
for  a  moment  to  hesitate,  and  a  sort  of  vagueness 
came  over  his  look,  as  he  just  repeated  slowly,  "After 
the  War.  .  .  .,"  without  adding  another  word.  The 
next  moment  he  was  talking  merrily  of  something 
else.  But  we  remembered  that  broken  sentence,  the 
sudden  and  brief  change  in  the  look,  and  we  knew 
that  he  knew  the  whole  risk,  and  had  looked  straight 
at  the  sacrifice.  We  shall  never  forget  him,  and  we 
mourn  with  you  both.  And  yet  it  is  of  such  a  death 
that  it  has  been  said,  "One  should  not  weep." 

ANDR£  CHEVILLON. 
June  30,  1916. 

Of  all  the  men  that  Victor  met  in  the  aviation  corps 
Kiffin  Rockwell  was  the  dearest  to  him.  He  envied 
Rockwell  for  having  been  in  the  great  charge  made 
by  the  Legion  in  May;  and  worshipped  Rockwell's 
courage  and  romantic  spirit.  When  Rockwell  fell, 
soon  after  Victor's  death,  I  felt  as  if  Victor's  soul 
was  but  a  little  way  above  Kiffin's  head,  and  "stayed 
for  his  to  keep  him  company." 

Escadrille  N.  124,  Secteur  24. 

August  10,  1916. 

My  dear  Mrs.  Chapman:  I  received  your  letter 
this  morning.  I  feel  mortified  that  you  have  had  to 


38  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

write  me  without  my  having  written  you  before, 
when  Victor  was  the  best  friend  I  ever  had.  I  wanted 
to  write  you  and  his  father  at  once,  and  tried  to  a 
number  of  times.  But  I  found  it  impossible  to 
write  full  justice  to  Victor  or  to  really  express  my 
sympathy  with  you.  Everything  I  would  try  to 
say  seemed  so  weak.  So  I  finally  said,  "I  will  just 
go  ahead  and  work  hard,  do  my  best,  then  if  I  have 
accomplished  a  lot  or  been  killed  in  accomplishing 
it,  they  will  know  that  I  had  not  forgotten  Victor, 
and  that  some  of  his  strength  of  character  still  lived." 
There  is  nothing  that  I  can  say  to  you  or  anyone 
that  will  do  full  credit  to  him.  And  everyone  here 
that  knew  him  feels  the  same  way.  To  start  with, 
Victor  had  such  a  strong  character.  I  think  we 
all  have  our  ideals  when  we  begin  but  unfortunately 
there  are  so  very  few  of  us  that  retain  them;  and 
sometimes  we  lose  them  at  a  very  early  age  and 
after  that,  life  seems  to  be  spoiled.  But  Victor  was 
one  of  the  very  few  who  had  the  strongest  of  ideals, 
and  then  had  the  character  to  withstand  anything 
that  tried  to  come  into  his  life  and  kill  them.  He 
was  just  a  large,  healthy  man,  full  of  life  and  good- 
ness toward  life,  and  could  only  see  the  fine,  true 
points  in  life  and  in  other  people.  And  he  was  not 
of  the  kind  that  absorbs  from  other  people,  but  of 
the  kind  that  gives  out.  We  all  had  felt  his  influence, 
and  seeing  in  him  a  man,  made  us  feel  a  little  more 
like  trying  to  be  men  ourselves. 

When  I  am  in  Paris,  I  stay  with  Mrs.  Weeks, 
whose  son  was  my  friend,  and  killed  in  the  Legion. 
Well,  Victor  would  come  around  once  in  a  while  to 
dinner  with  us.  Mrs.  Weeks  used  always  to  say  to 
me:  "Bring  Victor  around,  he  does  me  so  much  good. 
I  like  his  laugh  and  the  sound  of  his  voice.  When  he 
comes  in  the  room  it  always  seems  so  much  brighter." 
Well,  that  is  the  way  it  was  here  in  the  Escadrille. 


MEMOIR  39 

For  work  in  the  Escadrille,  -Victor  worked  hard, 
always  wanting  to  fly.  And  courage!  he  was  too 
courageous,  we  all  would  beg  him  at  times  to  slow 
up  a  little.  We  speak  of  him  every  day  here,  and 
we  have  said  sincerely  amongst  ourselves  many  a 
time  that  Victor  had  more  courage  than  all  the 
rest  of  the  Escadrille  combined.  He  would  attack 
the  Germans  always,  no  matter  what  the  conditions 
or  what  the  odds.  The  day  he  was  wounded,  four 
or  five  of  the  Escadrille  had  been  out  and  come 
home  at  the  regular  hour.  Well,  Victor  had  attacked 
one  machine  and  seriously  crippled  it,  but  the 
machine  had  succeeded  in  regaining  the  German 
lines.  After  that  Victor  would  not  come  home  with 
the  rest  but  stayed  looking  for  another  machine. 
He  found  five  machines  inside  our  lines.  None  of 
us  like  to  see  a  German  machine  within  our  lines, 
without  attacking.  So,  although  Victor  was  alone, 
he  watched  the  five  machines  and  finally  one  of  them 
came  lower  and  under  him.  He  immediately  dived 
on  this  one.  Result  was  that  the  other  dived  on 
him.  One  of  them  was  a  Fokker,  painted  like  the 
machine  of  the  famous  Captain  Boelke  and  may 
have  been  him.  This  Fokker  got  the  position  on 
Victor,  and  it  was  a  miracle  that  he  was  not  killed 
then.  He  placed  bullet  after  bullet  around  Victor's 
head,  badly  damaging  the  machine,  cutting  parts 
of  the  command  in  two,  and  one  bullet  cutting  his 
scalp,  as  you  know.  Well,  Victor  got  away,  and 
with  one  hand  held  the  commands  together  where 
they  had  been  cut  and  landed  at  Froids  where  we 
had  friends  in  a  French  Escadrille.  There  he  had 
dinner  and  his  wound  was  dressed,  and  they  repaired 
his  machine  a  little.  That  afternoon  he  came  flying 
back  home  with  his  head  all  bound  up.  Yet  he 
thought  nothing  of  it,  only  smiled  and  thought  it  an 
interesting  event.  He  immediately  wanted  to  con- 


40  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

tinue  his  work  as  if  nothing  had  happened.  We 
tried  to  get  him  to  go  to  a  hospital,  or  to  go  to  Paris 
for  a  short  while  and  rest;  but  he  said  No.  Then 
we  said,  "Well,  you  have  got  to  take  a  rest,  even  if 
you  stay  here."  The  Captain  told  him  that  he  would 
demand  a  new  and  better  machine  for  him,  and  that 
he  could  rest  while  waiting  for  it  to  be  ready,  and 
then  could  see  whether  or  not  he  should  go  back  to 
flying.  This  was  the  iyth  of  June.  The  following 
morning  Balsley  was  wounded.  The  same  day  or 
the  day  after,  Uncle  Willie  came  to  see  Victor  and 
was  with  us  a  couple  of  days.  Those  first  days 
Victor  slept  late,  a  privilege  he  had  not  taken  before 
since  being  in  the  Escadrille,  always  having  got  up 
at  daylight.  In  the  daytime  he  would  be  with 
Uncle  Willie,  or  at  the  field,  seeing  about  his  ma- 
chine, or  he  would  take  his  old  machine  and  fly  over 
to  see  Balsley.  At  first  Balsley  could  not  eat  or 
drink  anything.  But  after  a  few  days  he  was  al- 
lowed a  little  champagne  and  oranges.  Well,  as 
soon  as  Victor  found  that  out,  he  arranged  for  cham- 
pagne to  be  sent  to  Balsley,  and  would  take  oranges 
over  to  him.  At  least  once  a  day,  and  sometimes 
twice,  he  would  go  over  to  see  Balsley  to  cheer  him 
up.  And  in  the  meantime  he  wouldn't  ever  let 
anyone  speak  of  his  wound,  as  a  wound,  and  was 
impatient  for  his  new  machine.  On  the  2ist  he 
got  his  machine  and  had  it  regulated.  On  the  22nd 
he  regulated  the  Mitrailleuse,  and  the  weather 
being  too  bad  to  fly  over  the  lines,  he  flew  it  around 
here  a  little  to  get  used  to  it.  His  head  was  still 
bandaged,  but  he  said  it  was  nothing.  Late  in  the 
afternoon  some  German  machines  were  signalled 
and  he  went  up  with  the  rest  of  us  to  look  for  them, 
but  it  was  a  false  alarm.  The  following  morning 
the  weather  was  good,  and  he  insisted  on  going  out 
at  the  regular  hour  with  the  rest.  There  were  no 


MEMOIR  41 

machines  over  the  lines,  so  the  sortie  was  uneventful. 
He  came  in,  and  at  lunch  fixed  up  a  basket  of  oranges 
which  he  said  he  would  take  to  Balsley.  We  went 
up  to  the  field,  and  Captain  Thenault,  Prince  and 
Luf berry  got  ready  to  go  out  and  over  the  lines. 
Victor  put  the  oranges  in  his  machine  and  said  that 
he  would  follow  the  others  over  the  lines  for  a  little 
trip  and  then  go  and  land  at  the  hospital.  The 
Captain,  Prince  and  Lufberry  started  first.  On 
arriving  at  the  lines  they  saw  at  first  two  German 
machines  which  they  dived  on.  When  they  arrived 
in  the  midst  of  them,  they  found  that  two  or  three 
other  German  machines  had  arrived  also.  As  the 
odds  were  against  the  three,  they  did  not  fight 
long,  but  immediately  started  back  into  our  lines 
and  without  seeing  Victor.  When  they  came  back 
we  thought  that  Victor  was  at  the  hospital.  But 
later  in  the  afternoon  a  pilote  of  a  Maurice  Farman 
and  his  passenger  sent  in  a  report.  The  report  was 
that  they  saw  three  Nieuports  attack  five  German 
machines,  that  at  this  moment  they  saw  a  fourth 
Nieuport  arriving  with  all  speed  who  dived  in  the 
midst  of  the  Germans,  that  two  of  the  Germans 
dived  towards  their  field  and  that  the  Nieuport  fell 
through  the  air  no  longer  controlled  by  the  pilote. 
In  a  fight  it  is  practically  impossible  to  tell  what  the 
other  machines  do,  as  everything  happens  so  fast 
and  all  one  can  see  is  the  beginning  of  a  fight  and 
then,  in  a  few  seconds,  the  end.  That  fourth  Nieu- 
port was  Victor  and,  owing  to  the  fact  that  the 
motor  was  going  at  full  speed  when  the  machine 
fell,  I  think  that  he  was  killed  instantly. 

He  died  the  most  glorious  death,  and  at  the  most 
glorious  time  of  life  to  die,  especially  for  him  with 
his  ideals.  I  have  never  once  regretted  it  for  him, 
as  I  know  he  was  willing  and  satisfied  to  give  his 
life  that  way  if  it  was  necessary,  and  that  he  had  no 


42  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

fear  of  death,  and  there  is  nothing  to  fear  in  death. 
It  is  for  you,  his  father,  relatives,  myself,  and  for 
all  who  have  known  him,  and  all  who  would  have 
known  him,  and  for  the  world  as  a  whole  I  regret 
his  loss.  Yet  he  is  not  dead,  he  lives  forever  in  every 
place  he  has  been,  and  in  everyone  who  knew  him 
and  in  the  future  generations  little  points  of  his 
character  will  be  passed  along.  He  is  alive  every 
day  in  this  Escadrille  and  has  a  tremenduous  in- 
fluence on  all  our  actions.  Even  the  mecaniciens  do 
their  work  better  and  more  conscientiously.  And  a 
number  of  times  I  have  seen  Victor's  mecanicien 
standing  (when  there  was  no  work  to  be  done)  and 
gazing  off  in  the  direction  of  where  he  last  saw  Victor 
leaving  for  the  lines. 

For  promotions  and  decorations  things  move 
slowly  in  the  army,  and  after  it  has  passed  through 
all  the  bureaus,  it  takes  some  time  to  get  back  to 
you.  Victor  was  proposed  for  Sergeant  and  for 
the  Croix  de  Guerre  May  24th.  This  passed  through 
all  the  bureaus  and  was  signed  by  the  General,  but 
the  papers  did  not  arrive  here  until  June  25th.  How- 
ever, Victor  knew  on  the  23rd,  that  they  had  passed, 
and  that  it  was  only  a  question  of  a  day  or  so.  He 
had  also  been  promised,  after  being  wounded,  the 
Medaille  Militaire  which  he  would  have  received 
sometime  in  July.  I  wish  that  they  could  have 
sent  that  to  you,  for  he  had  gained  it,  and  they 
would  have  given  it  to  him.  But  it  is  against  the 
rules  to  give  the  Medaille  Militaire  unless  every- 
thing has  been  signed  before  the  titulaire  is  killed. 

I  must  close  now.  You  must  not  feel  sorry,  but 
must  feel  proud  and  happy. 

KIFFIN  ROCKWELL. 


THE  LEGION 


Legionnaire. 


THE   LEGION 

Sept.  26,  '14. 

Dear  Alee:  Well,  I  am  having  a  very  amusing  ex- 
perience; but  I  don't  know  how  long  it  will  remain 
so,  and  when  it  will  become  dull.  I  joined  the  Volun- 
teers Sunday  night  and  was  overcome  with  the 
kindly  way  everyone  was  treated.  When  I  entered 
the  Caserne  the  old  soldiers  (territorial  reservists,) 
reprimanded  me  for  saying  "Monsieur"  to  them, 
and  tu'tuoi'd  in  a  very  friendly  manner.  They  showed 
me  about  and  seemed  to  take  an  individual  interest 
in  each  recruit. 

The  people  I  am  thrown  with  are,  for  the  moment, 
Polish  in  majority,  for  they  are  a  crowd  which  came 
together  from  Cambrai.  But  they  are  of  almost  all 
nationalities  and  all  stations  and  ages  of  life.  I  am 
most  friendly  with  a  little  Spaniard  from  Malaga. 
He  has  been  a  newspaper  reporter  in  London  and  got 
tired  of  doing  nothing  there,  so  he  enlisted  here.  So 
far  as  I  have  seen  I  am  the  only  American  (the  others 
having  been  sent  to  Rouen  a  day  or  two  before  I 
enlisted),  but  I  have  seen  a  couple  of  negroes.  There 
are  about  thirty  Alsatians,  a  few  Russians  and  a 
few  Belgians,  one  or  two  Germans,  a  Turk,  and  even 
a  Chinaman  arrived  this  morning.  There  are  Greeks 
and  Russian  Jews,  and  probably  many  I  have  not 
noticed. 

A  typical  Parisian  Apache  has  taken  a  fancy  to 
me.  He  is  a  naturalized  Russian  Jew,  but  got  in  as  a 
foreigner  because  he  served  a  turn  in  prison  and  did 
not  want  to  be  sent  to  Algiers.  Though  only  twenty- 


46  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

one  he  has  bullet  wounds  in  his  arm  and  scars  on  his 
neck.  I  have  been  in  this  place  three  days  so  my  ex- 
periences are  wearing  off  a  little  and  it  begins  to 
look  natural.  *  But  last  night  I  attended  a  very  in- 
teresting argument,  in  which  the  German  Socialists 
were  condemned  for  their  actions  in  the  Reichstag. 
As  an  aside  of  the  discussion  a  little  Alsatian  ex- 
plained a  probable  cause  for  the  atrocities  of  the 
German  soldiers.  He  having  done  his  service  there 
said  that  the  men  were  treated  so  harshly  and  the 
discipline  was  so  strict  that  he  used  to  hear  them 
say:  "In  a  war  anyway  we  will  have  a  good  time 
and  do  what  we  like."  The  present  crimes  are  a 
natural  reaction  from  the  German  iron  forms. 

Rueilly  Barracks. 

Same  date  to  his  brother  Conrad:  The  present 
Military  Governor  of  Paris  is  said  to  be  partial  to 
us,  therefore  the  first  battalion  got  clothed  and 
fitted  out  immediately.  But  now  that  the  danger 
of  the  German  army's  attacking  Paris  is  removed 
there  seems  no  great  rush  to  put  us  in  the  field.  All 
the  factories  closed  about  the  first  of  September  and 
everybody  was  taken  into  the  Legion  who  presented 
himself.  Thus  the  Second  and  Third  Battalions  are 
made  up  of  a  very  low  physical  and  social  class.  I 
am  glad  to  hear  in  the  last  two  or  three  days  that 
over  one  hundred  of  the  first  four  Companies  (first 
battalions),  have  been  reformed  or  dismissed.  What 
surprised  me  was  the  extreme  kindliness  with  which 
we  were  treated,  and  the  lack  of  severity  in  the  drill- 
ing. For  a  couple  of  weeks  the  drill  masters  (pom- 
piers, who  engaged  voluntarily),  were  much  too  kind 
and  gentle  for  the  average  Legionnaire.  But  now 
they  are  stiffening  up  a  little.  The  drilling  began, 
of  course,  with  marching  in,  and  changing  from  one 
formation  to  another.  The  second  day  they  gave  us 


THE  LEGION  47 

rifles  to  drill  with  and  by  the  second  week  we  already 
had  our  piou-piou  clothes,  knapsacks,  rifles,  water 
bottles  and  bags,  and,  of  course,  the  modern  "Le 
Bel"  rifles. 

We  took  marches  in  the  streets  at  the  end  of  the 
first  week,  and  ever  since  we  have  taken  a  march 
nearly  every  day, — now  almost  always  to  the  Bois 
de  Fincennes.  We  always  march  four  abreast  and 
re-form  a  gauche  en  ligne  or  a  droit  en  ligne,  two  deep. 
Thus  every  section  of  eight  men  moves  as  a  unit. 
Then  there  is  vers  la  gauche  en  ligne,  which  means 
that  all  the  units  of  eight,  except  the  first,  put  them- 
selves on  a  line  with  the  first.  From  a  double-line 
formation,  or  even  from  a  column  formation,  we 
go  into  a  single  line  a  pace  and  a  half  apart,  called 
en  tirailleur.  This  is  the  fighting  formation  usu- 
ally used,  from  which  we  shoot  standing,  kneel- 
ing and  lying,  and  make  advances  under  infantry 
fire.  Against  artillery  fire  we  do  the  reverse.  As  a 
column  marching  we  diminish  the  intervals  (serrer 
les  intervals)  and  crouch,  thus  sheltering  ourselves 
as  much  as  possible  under  our  sacks  in  which  are, 
of  course,  our  bedding,  dinner-cans,  and  cooking- 
pans, — all  good  armor  against  shrapnel. 

At  first  we  only  did  these  exercises  in  the  court- 
yard, but  this  week  we  have  been  doing  them  in  the 
afternoon  at  the  aeroplane  field  of  Vincennes.  On 
Wednesday  we  left  the  barracks  with  all  our  officers 
mounted  (the  first  of  four  companies),  and  a  bugle 
corps  playing  all  the  way  to  the  fortifications. 

Your  loving 

VICTOR. 

A  few  days  later  he  writes:  The  time  flies  in  the 
Barracks.  It  is  the  routine  life,  I  suppose.  We  not 
only  have  our  uniforms  but  almost  all  our  equip- 
ment, and  there  are  rumors  that  we  depart  almost 


48  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

any  day,  but  I  begin  to  doubt  them.  Paris  is  an 
extraordinary  sight.  I  crossed  the  Place  de  la  Con- 
corde last  week  about  9:30.  There  were  a  few  lights 
just  to  show  the  outline  of  the  place  and  the  statues, 
but  in  the  sky  four  great  search-lights  played.  One 
from  the  garde  meuble,  another  in  the  distance  be- 
yond the  Champs  Elysees,  another  from  the  Eiffel 
Tower,  and  a  fourth  coming  from  the  distance  be- 
hind the  Tuileries.  The  night  was  very  clear,  but 
there  were  thin  shreds  of  cloud  sprinkled  over  the 
heavens.  The  search-lights,  though  their  rays  were 
often  invisible,  especially  the  more  distant  ones,  lit 
up  the  scraps  of  cloud  which  seemed  to  lie  at  different 
heights,  so  that  one  often  saw  three  tiers  of  cloud- 
flakes  illuminated.  All  the  lights  on  the  Seine  or 
in  its  proximity  are  extinguished,  so  that  it  is  like 
the  city  of  the  dead,  except  for  the  occasional  reflec- 
tion of  the  slowly  moving  search-light  in  the  still 
water.  I  have  been,  this  last  week,  getting  permis- 
sion and  spending  the  nights  at  home,  but  I  have 
had  to  return  to  the  barracks  at  5:45.  There  being 
no  means  of  travel  I  used  to  walk,  and  it  was  the 
most  pleasurable  sensation  of  the  day, — walking  the 
banks  of  the  Seine  from  the  Pont  Neuf  to  the  Gare 
de  Lyon  just  before  sunrise.  The  changing  cloud 
effects  of  shape  and  color  were  beautiful,  as  was 
Notre  Dame  as  seen  from  the  east  with  the  old  houses, 
the  river  and  its  bridges. 

The  newspapers  here  gave  little  news  when  Paris 
was  in  greatest  danger,  but  one  could  tell  by  the 
sights  in  the  town  how  things  were  going.  The  food 
was  very  bad  here  last  week,  as  before,  so  I  used  to 
eat  out  for  lunch  on  alternate  days;  and  in  the  sub- 
way one  always  met  refugees  with  bags  and  children 
who  got  out  at  the  Lyon  station.  In  a  cafe  one  day 
I  had  a  map  and  was  discussing  with  Heredia,  my 
little  Spanish  friend,  the  position  of  the  troops.  A 


THE  LEGION  49 

well-dressed  little  woman  and  her  daughter  came 
up  and  said  quite  simply,  "We  come  from  Creil. 
Our  house  is  destroyed  for  military  purposes.  The 
Germans  are  at  Compiegne.  Pontoise  is  evacuated 
and  the  bridge  broken.  The  Avant  poste  of  the 
French  is  at  ficouen."  Ecouen  is  almost  a  suburb 
of  Paris.  Most  of  this  news  I  have  since  verified, 
but  at  the  time  we  had  no  idea  of  where  the  Germans 
were,  except  by  rumor.  The  German  aeroplanes, 
you  probably  know,  flew  over  us  every  day  about 
two  weeks  ago.  They  dropped  a  few  harmless 
bombs,  and  on  the  whole  amused  the  population 
who  used  to  gather  in  probable  localities  in  crowds 
at  about  six  in  the  afternoon  to  see  them. 

The  first  day  I  was  at  the  Boulevard  St.  Germain 
changing  my  clothes,  when  I  heard  a  sound  like  the 
beating  of  carpets,  only  sharper,  and  growing  more 
frequent.  Looking  out  I  saw  a  Taube  flying  silently 
overhead,  and  the  noise  was  made  by  people  firing 
at  it  from  the  gardens  and  housetops  with  pistols, 
shotguns,  or  anything  that  came  to  hand. 

The  same  afternoon  one  of  them  flew  over  the 
caserne,  and  the  old  territorials  got  their  rifles  and 
popped  at  it.  Among  the  newly-arrived  volunteers 
was  a  Chinaman.  On  hearing  the  firing  and  seeing 
the  machine  he  turned  quite  pale  and  ran  into  the 
house,  where  he  is  said  to  have  hidden  under  a  bed. 
The  next  day  an  order  was  issued  forbidding  people 
from  firing  on  German  aeroplanes,  as  the  damage, 
it  was  feared,  from  the  bullets  was  greater  than  that 
the  aeroplanes  might  inflict.  Mr.  Whitney  Warren 
looked  me  up  and  I  have  been  able  to  keep  in  touch 
with  the  doings  of  the  outside  world  through  him 
and  Mr.  Jaccaci,  whom  I  see  on  his  return  from 
Bordeaux,  or  other  distant  points. 

My  best  love  to  everyone.  I  think  of  America 
often,  but  I  am  enjoying  this  experience. 


So  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

To  his  mother,  undated:  We  changed  garrison  yester- 
day, after  many  false  alarms.  The  change  came  at 
5:30  yesterday  morning  and  we  got  ourselves  fully 
equipped,  and  sallied  forth.  The  complete  trap- 
pings are  very  heavy.  The  water  bottle  over  one 
hip,  a  large  bag  for  grub  and  odds  and  ends  over 
the  other  on  top  of  the  bayonet,  a  box  containing 
84  cartridges  across  the  chest,  the  rifle  (weighs 
10  Ibs.)  and  the  sack.  The  sack  is  about  18  inches 
square  by  5,  containing  change  of  linen  and  personal 
effects  (I  bought  a  water-color  box),  on  top  of  which 
are  strapped  an  extra  pair  of  heavy  army  shoes,  and 
part  of  the  squad  field-accoutrement, — such  as  an 
ax,  a  pail  or  a  shovel.  I  have  the  last  named.  Over 
all  is  the  blanket  with  a  piece  of  a  tent-cloth  rolled 
up  and  folded  about.  The  sack  itself  sits  at  the 
height  of  the  shoulders,  the  personal  canteen,  which 
is  perched  above  all,  is  at  about  the  level  of  the 
head.  I  thought  I  might  get  a  chance  to  see  Uncle 
Willy,  so  I  got  permission  to  take  my  bicycle.  I  had 
to  push  it  all  the  way,  and  carry  the  sack  as  there 
was  no  room  in  the  food  wagons  which  followed  us. 
We  were  in  all  only  a  battalion  (4  companies),  who 
left,  but  we  had  our  full  outlay  of  mounted  officers, 
motor  cycles,  and  wagon  train  of  field  kitchen,  be- 
sides the  corps  of  buglers.  All  the  wagons  are  req- 
uisitioned. One  still  bears  the  title  "Violet  Par- 
fumerie"  and  the  horses  are  of  all  sorts.  Only  one 
captain  has  a  horse  worthy  of  the  name.  We  halted 
every  forty  minutes  for  ten,  and  on  account  of 
traffic  made  an  enormous  detour,  following  the 
fortifications  from  near  Vincennes  to  St.  Cloud, 
where  we  crossed  the  Seine  again  and  mounted  the 
hill.  The  view  was  superb  over  the  Bois, — a  little 
misty,  and  filled  with  cattle  and  sheep  in  pens.  I 
looked  back  as  we  descended  the  other  side  and  en- 
joyed our  winding  column  among  the  tilled  fields, 


THE  LEGION  51 

with  the  many-colored  little  flags  sticking  from  the 
guns,  the  blue  "couvre  capet"  and  the  tawny  tent- 
covers  mingling  with  the  shining  gamelles. 

I  must  leave  now.  I  have  had  no  letter  from 
any  of  you  since  you  left  England.  Perhaps  they 
got  stopped  at  the  Caserne.  They  say  not.  Any- 
way, Mr.  Jaccaci  will  take  them  for  me  in  the 
future. 

I  am  flourishing.  The  new  caserne  is  better  than 
the  last. 

Rueil  Caserne,  October  6th,  1914. 

Dear  Papa:  This  life  is  very  healthy  if  not  too  ex- 
citing. Since  our  walk  from  the  Barracks  of  Rueilly 
we  have  not  been  over-worked.  In  fact  this  whole 
procedure  is  as  though  one  picked  up  the  first  lot 
of  men  in  a  city  street  and  had  a  continuous  picnic 
with  them.  The  worst  part  is  that  they  are  some- 
times still  treated  too  well,  and  instead  of  appre- 
ciating it  they  grumble  that  they  should  not  be  ex- 
pected to  run  in  the  fields,  or  what  a  farce  it  is  to 
try  to  make  them  dig  a  ditch  while  lying  down. 
These  walks  and  stops  give  one  a  splendid  chance 
to  view  the  country  under  all  conditions,  even 
though  I  scarcely  ever  have  the  leisure  to  sketch  it. 
We  often  go  out  about  6:30  or  7  in  the  morning, 
and  now  the  mists  are  rising  and  one  has  the  faded 
yellow  Autumn  coloring.  Our  company  has  been 
shrinking  automatically  through  reformed  men,  and 
Germans  being  sent  to  Africa,  and  others  to  special 
service,  such  as  provision-department,  etc.,  till 
we  now  number  190  instead  of  250,  and  yet  there 
are  men  portes  malades. 

I  had  the  Spaniard,  Heredia,  changed  into  my 
squad  so  as  to  have  a  little  more  intellectual  con- 
versation. But  he  is  so  absent-minded  that  I  some- 
times get  out  of  patience  with  him.  Occasionally 


52  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

one  hears  a  bit  of  interesting  conversation.    A  man 
comes  in  saying:  "My  wife  heard  today  that  her 
brother    was    killed    August    I5th. — News    travels 
slowly."     Then,  instead  of  talking  about  the  soup 
or  the  exercise,  they  make  interesting  remarks  of 
personal  knowledge.    "Yes,  my  cousin  was  wounded 
at  seven  in  the  morning  and  he  was  not  picked  up 
till  sunset."     And  similar  statements  which  show 
wonderful  inefficiency  on  the  part  of  the  field  am- 
bulances,— as,  "There  were  only  two  brancardiers 
to  a  whole  battalion  of  the  79th."     The  gossip  is 
that  these  evils   are  being  speedily  remedied.     In 
fact  I  see  it.    We  have  a  brancardier  to  every  squad 
(18  men)   maximum  instead  of  a  battalion  (1,000 
men).     It  might  be  of  interest  to  you  to  know  the 
names  of  the  men  in  my  squad.     Markus,  better 
class  Russian  Pole  with  French  wife;  Heredia,  Malaga 
Spanish,  writes  for  Spanish  papers  and  has  trans- 
lated Mark  Twain,  etc.;    Held,  Swiss  origin,  born 
in    Paris;    Gabai,    Turkish    Jew,    Constantinople, 
Spanish   ancestry,  cheap  chemisier;  Millet,   Italian 
from  near  Monaco;  Zimmermann,  Alsatian,  S trass- 
burg,    professional   bicyclist,    served    as   orderly    to 
officer  in  Germany,  speaks  French  with  a  vile  ac- 
cent;  Zudak,    Russian    Pole,    very   greedy,    speaks 
considerable  French;  Chikechki,  ditto,  speaks  better 
French,  a  strong  fellow;  Bogdan,  Austrian  Pole,  no 
French  but  German;  Canbrai,  miner,  simple  man, 
never  gives  trouble;  Bajteck,  Austrian  Pole,  greedy. 
These  Poles  are  by  far  the  best  material  physically 
for  soldiers;  and  though  not  very  bright,  they  do 
not  give  trouble.     Gabai,  the  Turk,  is  all  the  time 
talking   and   getting   into   most   heated   arguments 
whenever  anyone  will  talk  to  him,  in  fact,  his  presence 
is  always  felt  when  he  is  in  the  room  by  his  constant 
flow  of  language.    Manchiuski,  the  slight  little  Pole 
tailor,   calls   him   the   mitrailleuse.     Recently  Held 


THE  LEGION  53 

got  himself  changed  to  the  kitchen;  the  reason  he 
gave  me  was  that  he  could  not  stand  the  constant 
yelling  and  cursing. 

Friday,  October  9th. 

I  have  just  come  in  from  a  day's  march  and  re- 
ceived my  first  letters  from  you  through  Mr.  Jaccaci's 
messenger.  We  had  heard  rumors  of  this  march 
and  expected  it  to  be  difficult,  but  really  it  did  not 
come  up  to  my  expectations.  The  whole  Battalion 
left  the  barracks  at  5:40  after  a  most  disorderly 
rush  to  assemble,  for  the  whistle  blew  half  an  hour 
ahead  of  time.  We  drank  soup  instead  of  coffee  and 
carried  with  us  coffee  and  cold  meat,  and  each  of 
us  had  a  fagot  of  kindlings  to  heat  the  coffee.  The 
rising  mists  on  the  Seine  valley  were  very  soft  as 
they  rolled  over  the  poplars.  Outside  a  town  where 
we  stopped  some  women  came  f  put  f and  gave  us 
coffee.  Then  we  came  to  level  lands,  wholesale 
market-gardens,  and  the  companies  separated  and 
tried  to  manoeuvre  without  destroying  the  turnips, 
carrots  and  cabbages, — a  very  unsuccessful  pro- 
cedure. "  Les  pay  sans  gueulent  comme  des  putois" 
said  our  Captain,  and  bringing  us  into  a  column  of 
march  we  proceeded  towards  the  fields  where  we 
were  due  to  make  coffee  and  "repos." 

Our  first  squad  of  eclaireurs  having  got  lost,  I 
was  sent  out  to  do  advance  sentry-work,  that  is, 
I  with  two  others.  We  rambled  across  the  culti- 
vated potatoes  ahead  of  the  column,  and  picked  up 
an  apple  or  two  besides  eating  some  grapes.  The 
midday  rest  was  very  delightful.  Though  we  only 
cooked  coffee  it  looked  like  a  true  bivouac.  The 
Italians  in  the  third  company  sang  the  Marseillaise 
and  a  number  of  Neapolitan  songs,  while  some 
Russians  in  another  group  did  fancy  dancing.  The 
march  home  was  dusty,  but  not  sufficiently  long, 


54  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

for  we  reached  the  barracks  at  3 :3<D.  I  hear  we  did 
about  twenty- two  kilometres. 

I  have  not  risen  from  the  ranks  yet,  but  my  name 
and  face  are  familiar  to  the  sergeants  and  Captain, 
and  I  take  the  Corporal's  place  in  my  squad  when 
he  is  absent.  My  stammering  speech  and  embar- 
rassed manner,  however,  detract  somewhat  from 
the  advantages  of  having  a  pronounceable  name  and 
being  a  recognizable  American. 

I  made  a  sentimental  faux-pas  at  Rueilly  Caserne 
one  night.  It  was  after  taps  but  the  lamp  was  still 
burning.  I  lay  trying  to  sleep  with  my  head  to  the 
middle  of  the  room.  In  fact  I  was  almost  asleep. 
There  was  a  call  in  the  room.  I  afterwards  learned 
that  the  unfortunate  Germans  were  called  to  be 
sent  to  Morocco.  Some  one  said,  "Ou  est  Chap- 
man?" and  the  next  thing  I  knew  some  one  embraced 
me.  I  thought  it  was  some  joke,  and  lifting  my  leg 
pushed  him  across  the  room.  A  voice  whimpered 
"  Sans  blague,  c'est  adieu"  It  was  a  poor  fellow  I  had 
seen  a  few  times,  who  though  really  French  was  born 
in  Germany  and  had  put  his  name  down  as  German. 
Then  he  hurried  off,  but  I  was  much  touched  by  his 
kiss  for  I  hardly  knew  him  and  never  heard  his  name. 

Rueil,  Oct.  I9th,  1914. 

Dear  Alee:  I  hope  you  have  news  before  now.  I 
shall  get  photographed  for  you  this  week.  I  ar- 
ranged with  a  fellow  to  take  some  pictures  of  us  on 
the  march  last  week,  but  since  we  had  the  weekly 
march  by  companies,  instead  of  the  battalion  to- 
gether, the  plan  fell  through.  Besides  two  good 
marches  in  the  woods  and  hills  west  of  us — Marly-le- 
Roi,  Etang-le-Ville  and  Foret-de-Marly,  and  the 
usual  Tir,  there  were  two  events  which  were  of  in- 
terest,— the  burial  of  a  French  soldier  and  the  ar- 
rival of  the  Mitrailleuse  detachment. 


THE  LEGION  55 

A  native  of  Rueil,  wounded  at  the  Front,  died  at 
his  home  and  we,  being  the  nearest  garrison,  did  him 
military  honors.  With  nine  others  and  a  Corporal  I, 
by  chance,  was  chosen  to  go  in  full  field  equipment 
and  conduct  the  bier  to  the  cemetery.  The  house 
being  opposite  the  church  we  merely  saluted  as  he 
was  carried  by.  There  were  forty  soldiers  from  the 
barracks  in  undress  uniform  (bayonet  and  cap) 
besides  most  of  our  higher  officers.  These  all  entered 
the  church  for  the  service,  but  we  could  not,  though 
the  priest  requested  it,  on  account  of  the  separation 
of  state  and  church.  After  the  service  we  accom- 
panied the  hearse  to  the  cemetery  proceeded  by  a 
band,  which  of  course,  played  the  funeral  march. 
It  was  very  impressive,  for  the  whole  town  turned 
out  and  followed  up  the  narrow,  crooked  streets  of 
the  little  town.  I  could  not  see  the  procession  as  I 
marched  beside  the  hearse  with  my  rifle-barrel 
pointing  down — a  most  fatiguing  position  as  I  soon 
discovered. 

Ever  since  I  knew  of  the  mitrailleuse  squad  I  have 
tried  to  get  into  it.  Also  both  Mr.  Warren  and  Mr. 
Jaccaci  advised  me  to.  But  the  Lieutenant  would 
not  take  me  because  I  had  had  no  previous  ex- 
perience. Well,  I  intrigued  with  the  old  Spaniard, 
and  on  arriving  here  Friday  they  found  they  needed 
more  men  and  demanded  them  from  all  the  com- 
panies. Heredia,  my  little  Spaniard,  also  has  been 
making  efforts.  Well,  my  Captain  said  he  wanted 
his  men,  and  when  his  hand  was  forced  by  the  Com- 
mandant, he  gave  those  who  had  a  zero  score  at  the 
range.  Heredia  was  allowed  to  change  because  he 
had  done  very  badly.  Another  effort  was  made  for 
me  through  the  request  of  the  Sergeant  of  the  Mitrail- 
leuse, but  the  Captain  knows  my  name  and  refused. 
So  it  rests.  My  Gromort  companion,  a  young  Rus- 
sian, who  joined  and  was  immediately  reformed  on 


56  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

account  of  a  bad  heart,  has  introduced  me  to  a  Rus- 
sian friend,  Solotaraff, — a  Beaux-Arts  graduate, — 
who  is  doing  some  work  with  MacMonnies, — a 
fountain  in  City  Hall  Square,  and  a  monument  at 
Princeton.  He  is  in  the  third  company  and  we  are 
going  to  do  water-colors  together.  In  fact  we  did 
one  at  noon  today.  Blagly  came  out  yesterday  and 
we  rambled  about,  and  he  told  me  his  fanciful  ideas, 
and  kissed  me  on  both  cheeks  at  parting, — a  most 
exuberant,  affectionate  nature  he  has,  which  bubbles 
through  channels  of  most  awful  French.  It  would 
really  have  amused  one  to  have  listened  to  us  chat- 
ter, for  it  was  so  much  easier  to  talk  than  to  try  to 
understand  the  other  that  I  noted  more  than  once 
that  we  were  chatting  on  to  one  another  on  different 
subjects  at  the  same  time. 

Rueil  Caserne,  Poste  de  Garde, 

Oct.  21,  1914. 

Yesterday  at  eight  in  the  morning  there  was  a 
review  of  all  the  four  Companies  and  impedimenta. 
The  reserve  rations  were  given  out  and  stuffed  in 
our  sacks,  the  great  cartouchiers  hung  round  our 
necks,  filled  with  eighty-eight  cartridges  each,  and 
we  were  lined  up,  the  bugle  corps  at  the  right  and  the 
wagon  train  behind.  One  of  the  Captain's  horses 
behaved  so  badly  that  he  dismounted.  The  deep- 
chested  Commandant,  with  a  long,  square  black 
beard,  mounted  on  a  gentle  animal  with  a  misfit  neck 
and  lanky  hind  quarters,  gave  the  commands  in 
an  operatic  voice.  The  Lieutenant-Colonel,  old, 
drawn-faced,  mounted  on  a  furry-haired  polo  pony, 
stood  beside  him,  while  the  Commandant's  Aid, 
on  a  similar  animal,  ambled  about  on  the  steps  of  a 
neighboring  building.  Our  ruddy-faced,  lowering- 
eye-browed  Captain — he  always  wears  his  medal 


THE  LEGION  57 

of  a  Volunteer  of  '70 — sat,  legs  out-stretched  on  a 
mangy  black  nag.  "  Presentex  Armes!"  roared  the 
Commandant.  We  did  so,  and  the  bugle  corps 
struck  up.  Immediately  the  four  docile-looking 
animals  scampered  off  with  their  unwilling  riders 
and  it  was  not  till  the  end  of  the  trumpeting  that 
they  returned  to  their  positions.  What  will  happen 
when  we  use  our  rifles,  or  a  battery  of  artillery  hap- 
pens to  be  near  by?  We  filed  off  to  our  rooms  and 
did  nothing  much  the  rest  of  the  day.  Today  my 
squad  is  guard.  We  got  up  before  the  reveille  and 
relieved  the  guard  of  the  previous  day.  It  consists, 
for  the  most  part,  in  sitting  in  the  small  white-washed 
room  and  relieving  the  sentinels. 

Three  Legionnaires  jumped  the  wall  last  Sun- 
day night,  so  we  now  have  to  post  a  man  at  the  far 
end  of  the  enclosure  and  look  after  these  fellows  now 
in  the  prison,  called  la  boite,  besides,  of  course, 
mounting  guard  at  the  door  and  saluting  the  passing 
officers.  A  better  educated  Pole  is  trying  to  make 
out  an  Italian  newspaper,  while  a  fat,  beer-faced 
Milanese  carpenter  and  an  Austrian  Polish  miner 
are  discussing  the  disadvantages  of  the  stove,  with 
a  bearded  Alsatian.  The  Sergeant  de  jour  writes 
beside  me.  The  Paymaster  enters  and  stamps  the 
letters  with  a  rubber  seal.  (No  stamps  necessary 
for  the  Militaires.}  "  Nom  de  Dieu!  Le  clairon  n'est 
pas  Id.  Le  cochon"  ejaculates  the  former.  A  couple 
of  soldiers  are  reading  with  interest  "Lectures  pour 
Tous"  of  the  year  1909.  In  the  far  end  another 
sleeps  with  his  knees  up  against  the  pile  of  mat- 
tresses. A  white  mongrel  fox-terrior  runs  about. 
Without  one  hears  a  passing  company  at  drill.  "Sec- 
tion Halte!"  "En  ligne  face  a  gauche."  If  the 
Lieutenant-Colonel  or  anyone  of  higher  rank  ap- 
pears, or  a  company  passes  the  gates,  there  is  the 
call  " Aux  Armes!"  and  everyone  jumps  to  the 


58  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

gun-rack,    and   fixing   his   bayonet   to   the   muzzle, 
lines  up  and  presents  arms  before  the  door. 

I  was  in  the  sentry-box  at  noon-time,  and  con- 
templated the  open  square  with  half-clad  horse- 
chestnut  trees.  A  middle-aged  woman  asked  to  see 
Hirsch.  He  came.  Then  a  girl  arrived  and  asked  for 
Hirsch  fils.  He  was  also  sent  for,  and  there  were 
two  little  groups  who  chatted  in  a  corner  outside 
the  gate.  Father  and  son  in  the  same  battalion, 
but  soldats  de  deuxieme  classe  and  neither  the  least 
soldier-like  in  appearance.  I  have  guard  from  6:30 
to  8:30  and  from  2:30  to  4:30. 

November  2,  1914. 

Dear  Alee:  I  am  sorry  to  read  in  your  letters  that 
you  and  Papa  are  most  down-cast.  I,  from  this  side 
of  the  water,  do  not  feel  in  the  least  miserable. 
Somehow  everyone  expects  it  to  be  a  long  war,  though 
they  do  not  say  so.  Mr.  Warren  told  me  in  Paris, 
the  middle  of  September,  that  with  those  big  guns 
Antwerp  was  doomed.  But  the  great  mortars  are 
only  good  against  forts  and  towns,  and  must  be  rein- 
forced by  small  guns  to  prevent  capture,  so  that  in  a 
campaign  they  are  of  no  advantage  and  a  great  im- 
pediment. The  big  engagement  is  now  in  progress 
about  Dixmude,  a  final  German  effort  to  break  in  the 
eastern  wing.  The  news  is  good  but  nothing  de- 
cisive. The  only  result  I  would  wish  for  is  that  the 
Germans  should  be  driven  out  of  France  before  the 
cold  weather  sets  in. 

As  for  me,  if  I  had  joined  the  fellows  at  Rouen  I 
would  be  at  the  front;  but  this  scum  of  Paris  streets 
will  take  more  months  of  preparation,  if  they  ever 
can  be  made  fit  for  the  front.  More  rumors  of 
leaving — within  a  week — to  Manois,  with  cavalry 
and  artillery  at  Camps  de  Mailly  and  long  distance 
rifle  ranges;  then,  if  we  are  not  forgotten,  to  the 


THE  LEGION  59 

Front.  But  the  hardest,  most  desperate  fighting,  is 
nearly  over;  for  even  the  maddened  Germans  can- 
not continue  to  be  prodigal  of  their  men,  so  these 
hecatombs  must  cease. 

There  is  a  distant  rumor  this  noon  that  the  Alsa- 
tians and  Belgians  will  be  separated;  also  the  Poles 
and  Italians  put  in  regiments  apart.  I  don't  believe 
it.  When  people  are  idle  they  tell  stories. 

I  never  told  you  that  I  constantly  use  the  alcohol 
lamp  to  cook  with,  since  it  all  fits  in  my  gamelle, 
so  I  can  take  it  away  to  the  next  camp.  I  have  the 
sewing  materials  and  the  bandages.  From  every 
side — Uncle  Willy,  Mr.  Jaccaci,  even  Mme.  Bristle — 
they  have  given  me  things,  more  than  I  can  use. 

Love  to  Papa  and  Chanler. 

Rueil,  November  17,  1914. 

Dear  Alee:  I  am  writing  in  a  little  patisserie  such 
as  one  imagines  on  the  French  stage, — all  white  and 
very  small.  Round  marble  tables  and  a  large  ac- 
count book  with  a  little  lady  behind  it  and  a  potted 
evergreen — the  very  regular,  stereotyped  kind.  Here 
I  came  with  Heredia  and  Dessauer  last  night,  and 
drank  delicious  chocolate.  (Dessauer  is  with  me 
tonight,  reading  Tristan  and  Isolde.)  We  smoked 
the  wondrous  cigars  Mr.  Bliss  had  given  me;  and 
Heredia,  in  his  soft  but  halting  French,  told  us  of 
the  people  of  Spain — their  customs  and  their  dances 
—till  we  forgot  the  outside  world  and  only  the 
strokes  of  the  church  clock  told  us  it  was  eight. 
Except  for  our  costumes,  it  was  a  most  perfect 
evening  of  peace  and  repose.  Well,  here  is  where 
my  martial  spirit  leads  me.  My  discomforts  are 
very  small  at  the  caserne  now,  for  I  have  got  the 
bed  next  the  window  which  I  open  at  night  and  close 
before  it  is  noticed  at  the  reveille.  For  the  last 
couple  of  days  my  reading  has  been  divided  between 


60  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

Hamlet  and  the  Infantry  Manual.  I  borrowed  the 
former  second  or  third  hand  from  the  owner;  but  lo! 
the  half  of  the  pages  were  uncut.  I  feel  very  blue 
about  once  in  three  days  at  doing  so  little.  So  far 
as  the  drudgery  goes  I  am  perfectly  situated,  for  I  do 
not  do  the  chores  (corvees)  and  have  not  the  bother 
of  reporting  and  swearing  at  people. 

Rueil,  November  27,  1914. 

Dear  Alee:  .  .  .  For  the  third  time  my  fate  was 
weighed  in  the  balance  about  the  mitrailleuse.     It 
seemed  that  they  were  as  anxious  to  have  me  as 
my  Captain  was  to  keep  me.     I  was  led  up  before 
the  Commandant  with  the  Captains  sitting  by  and 
my  name  read  out  with  four  or  five  others.     My 
Captain  came  over  to  me  and  asked  me  if  I  was  not 
happy,  and  why  did  I  want  to  go?    I  mumbled,  hesi- 
tated and  said  I  understood  the  mitrailleuse  to  be 
more  exciting,   etc.     He  did   not  like  that;  but  I 
thought  of  a  phrase  that  Uncle  Willy  suggested  to 
me  to  say,  "It  is  more  dangerous."    That  was  like 
a  magic  word :  he  could  not  refuse  me  now.    He  gave 
me  to  the  Lieutenant  with  his  blessing  and  relieved 
himself  before  the  assembled  officers  in  rich  French 
phrases,  as  "If  only  all  the  men  were  like  him!" 
"This  is  the  best  of  my  Company,"  etc.  etc.    Mean- 
while I  stood  on  one  foot  and  looked  at  the  floor, 
bashful  as  sweet  sixteen.    I  have  been  made  pointer 
which  is  the  best  position  next  chef  de  piece. 

Cafe  de  la  Place,  Laigneville  (Oise), 

November  30,  1914. 

Dear  Alee:  The  third  evening  of  the  march.  At 
last  a  civilized  house  to  sleep  in!  It  is  a  dance-hall 
adjoining  this  cafe.  We  are  now  in  country  traversed 
by  Germans,  and  passed  through  Creil  on  a  pontoon 
bridge  and  saw  twenty  odd  houses  in  ruins — the 


THE  LEGION  61 

result  of  German  shells.  Beginning  Friday  night, 
everybody  gay  with  vim;  and  looking  out  on  the 
moonlit  parade  ground  we  all  heard  "La  Dame 
Blanche" — a  bugle  call  to  put  lights  out,  and  it  ap- 
peared very  beautiful  when  what  we  are  used  to 
hearing  is  the  dinner  call,  "Sergeant  de  Jour"  etc. 

We  arrived  at  ficouen  after  a  long  and  hungry 
journey  at  twilight,  and  looked  up  at  the  Chateau. 
After  a  long  wait  we  were  told  to  take  the  pieces 
and  ammunition  up  to  the  Chateau,  which  we  did 
by  a  winding  route  through  gardens  and  passage- 
ways, up  steps  and  along  parapets.  Unfortunately 
the  quarters  were  very  bad  and  we  had  to  walk  a 
kilometre  and  a  half  to  get  our  grub.  I  thought  we 
were,  of  course,  worse  off  than  the  rest,  since  we  are 
not  attached  permanently  to  any  one  of  the  three 
battalions  nor  have  we  been  given  a  cuisine  roulante, 
but  it  appears  everyone  fares  equally  badly.  I 
spoke  to  a  driver  to-day:  "I  slept  in  the  wagon,  and 
the  horses  sous  les  belles  etoiles" 

Well,  yesterday  we  marched  only  a  short  distance; 
but  it  was  perhaps  just  as  tiring  because  of  stops  of 
uncertain  duration.  We  were  billeted  this  time  in 
a  typical,  dirty  farm.  The  ranks  in  the  yard,  and 
ourselves  in  the  barn.  Plenty  of  straw,  but  we 
didn't  arrive  till  twilight  again  and  left  at  dawn 
(seven),  and  since  everything  was  very  inflammable, 
only  one  candle  lantern  for  the  fifty-nine  bons  hommes. 
You  can  imagine  the  comforts. 

All  about  me  now  they  are  writing  post-cards  for 
those  of  us  who  neither  read  nor  write.  They  are 
having  a  good  deal  of  fun  out  of  them.  "Nous  ne 
sommes  pas  maintenant  si  loin  de  la  ligne  de  feu,  mais 
c'est  moins  chaud  que  votre  cceur"  Two  others  are 
discussing  how  a  third's  name  is  spelt,  the  last  being 
quite  ignorant.  Matter  finally  settled  by  consulting 
a  Sergeant's  list.  From  now  on  we  are  going  to 


62  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

fetch  our  vivres  raw  and  cook  them  ourselves.  Since 
the  Italians  are  good  cooks  I  expect  it  will  be  good. 
I  must  rush  off  to  pack  up  my  bag,  since  we  leave 
early  in  the  morning.  Passing  through  Chantilly, 
General  Joffre  was  said  to  have  been  about  to  review 
us,  but  he  never  showed  up,  though  a  professor-like- 
looking  General  regarded  us. 

Your  loving 

Victor. 

December  I,  1914. 

Dear  Alee:  Twenty-eight  kilometres  now,  at  St. 
Juste.  We  heard  cannon  twice  today.  The  country 
changed  on  leaving  Clermont  and  became  slightly 
rolling  plains.  It  rained  most  of  the  day  but  a  slight 
drizzle  of  the  morning  suddenly  became  a  heavy 
rain  at  the  hour  of  the  Grande  Halte.  "  II  faut  se 
debrouiller"  you  can  bet,  to  "debattre  les  mulets" 
besides  being  avant  garde,  (i.  e.  putting  the  guns  in 
position),  then  make  our  cafe  and  warm  up  some 
beans  we  had  cooked  the  night  before.  Well,  of 
course  we  had  to  abattre  the  mules  before  the  water 
boiled,  the  fire  having  gone  out  twice;  but  our  sec- 
tion having  missed  our  coffee  two  days  on  end  for 
the  same  reason,  left  the  gamelle  on  the  fire  and  did 
drink  the  coffee  although  no  time  to  strain  it.  The 
boite  de  Huge  was  given  out  and  eaten  with  the  rest, 
so  we  marched  on  happily,  singing  "La  Guerre  est 
declare  e^  and  so  impressed  the  Colonel,  that  he  is 
putting  us  at  the  tete  to-morrow.  Our  Sergeant  went 
ahead  and  got  us  another  salle  de  danse.  We  have 
had  to  fight  to  get  straw,  but  I  rather  think  we  have 
enough  at  last.  It's  odd;  we  were  exceedingly  well 
received  at  the  last  place; — "Will  you  have  some 
more  straw?"  etc.  We  cooked  our  soup  in  the  court, 
but  all  the  smoke  blew  up  into  the  room. 

We  all  are  in  the  best  of  health — barring  a  ser- 


THE  LEGION  63 

geant  with  the  colors — but  the  three  battalions  are 
almost  half  laid  up,  I  fear,  for  they  carry  their 
sacks,  and  you  can  imagine  what  even  the  most 
modest  can  scrape  together  in  three  months'  waiting, 
to  take  as  necessities  to  the  tranchees.  It  is  sad 
seeing  them  fall,  and  being  gathered  up  in  requisi- 
tioned dump-carts  at  the  tail  of  each  battalion. 

I  am  too  sleepy  for  description,  but  from  what  I 
see  of  trenches  now,  the  modern  warfare  tries  to 
imitate  nature.  Imitation  manure-piles  and  hay 
or  straw  stacks  are  all  over.  We  leave  tomorrow  at 
eight  for  Montdidier,  only  seventeen  kilometres. 
Neither  St.  Juste  nor  Alost  suffered  from  German 
occupation. 

December  3rd,  1914. 

Dear  Papa:  Well,  the  authorities  seem  to  be 
hustling  us,  unfit  though  we  be,  to  some  tranchees, 
where  we  shall  probably  remain  till  the  Allies  besiege 
Berlin.  We  have  been  marching  six  days  now, 
alternating  a  thirty  kilometres  march  with  one 
about  seventeen.  It  is  really  remarkable  how  little 
of  the  war  one  sees  even  here  within  about  ten  kilo- 
metres of  the  enemy.  We  are  now  in  a  petit  Patelin 
which,  of  course,  was  visited  by  the  Germans,  and 
absolutely  deserted  by  the  inhabitants  at  the  time. 
Half  the  people  have  come  back;  but  many  here  now 
are  not  natives  and  we  are  warned  against  them  as 
being  spies.  No  signs  of  occupation,  except  a  broken 
door  here  and  there  and  notices  in  red  and  white 
chalk  where  officers  were  quartered.  Aside  from  the 
discomfort  of  sleeping  in  tramps'  rests,  standing 
about  for  orders,  and  doing  without  regular  meals 
I  rather  enjoy  the  ballade  (marching  song)  and 
the  changing  landscape. 

One  would  almost  have  thought  we  had  been 
brought  on  purpose  by  ways  where  few  signs  of 


64          LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

warfare  existed.  I  know  from  eye-witnesses  as  near 
as  Soissons  and  Senlis  the  marks  of  war,  but  one 
felt  much  nearer  the  war  back  at  Chantilly  with 
soldiers  and  generals  sauntering  about.  I  even  saw 
a  picturesque  Cossack  officer.  Gray  auto-vans  with 
Ravitaillement  de  2me  Echelon  and  the  like  on  them. 
At  Creil  we  saw  a  dozen  wrecked  houses;  but  one 
gets  no  better  impression  by  being  on  the  scene  than 
by  looking  at  the  post-cards  strung  up  in  the  Boule- 
vards at  Paris.  Of  course  one  sees  Territorials  every- 
where, but  not  in  any  greater  numbers  than  about 
the  Banlieue  de  Paris.  Now  and  then  we  see  a  Red 
Cross  auto  come  by.  Yesterday  we  saw  several 
freight  trains  made  over  into  Red  Cross,  and  had  a 
talk  with  wounded  out  of  the  window  of  a  Hospital 
of  contagious  diseases  at  the  long  wait  before  enter- 
ing Montdidier. 

All  of  the  people  who  have  visited  the  front  speak 
of  the  endless  lines  of  troops  hours  before  getting  to 
their  destination.  Well,  there  is  nothing  of  this 
sort  where  we  have  been.  Beard  dirty  Territorials 
at  railroad  crossings  and  gendarmeries.  Today  is 
the  first  time  we  have  seen  the  Active.  At  Pierre- 
fonds  there  were  some  Artillery.  Horses  and  men 
housed  in  straw  shelters  which  resembled  the  negro 
huts  at  the  Jardin  d'Acclimatation.  A  few  gun 
carriages  at  the  edge  of  the  woods  hidden  by  turf. 
Yesterday  a  Taube  was  visible  at  the  horizon  and 
those  with  glasses  claimed  to  see  puffs  of  smoke 
(shells)  about  it. 

I  am  writing  in  a  small  cafe,  filthy  and  full  of 
soldiers,  smoke  but  little  else.  Nothing  to  be  had 
in  the  village  to  eat;  no  chocolate,  cheese,  tobacco 
or  matches.  The  old  woman  threatens  to  close  up 
because  men  kick  at  white  wine  being  sold  at  vingt 
deux  sous  le  litre,  eight  and  nine  being  the  usual  price. 

It  is  a  small  but  picturesque  village,  a  little  torchon 


THE  LEGION  65 

(torchis)  and  woodwork  but  next  to  no  stone.  Very 
picturesque  with  its  steeples,  gables,  crooked  streets 
and  horse  ponds, — but  heavy  with  mud  and  no 
street-lights.  We  saw  today  for  the  first  time  the 
Paris  motor  busses,  now  provision  wagons.  Love  to 
all. 

Your  loving 

Victor. 

Dec.  9 — near  Caix. 

Dear  Alee:  We  have  been  having  a  most  healthy 
and  harmless  existence.  We  are  (first  and  third 
battalion  and  mitrail)  living  in  the  hamlet  surround- 
ing a  tumbled  down  eighteenth  century  brick  cha- 
teau. A  bedraggled  old  woman  appears  before  the 
side-door  and  asks  the  legionnaires  not  to  chase  the 
chickens  and  please  to  wash  the  steps.  A  contro- 
versy rages  as  to  whether  she  is  the  Marquise  or  the 
house-keeper,  but  the  odds  lie  now  in  favor  of  the 
former  opinion. 

No  stone  in  the  country  side  to  speak  of,  so  every 
building  here  is  either  built  of  red  brick  or  of  torchis, 
the  peaks  or  gables  of  which  are  picturesquely 
steepled  and  the  tile  roofs  green  with  moss.  We  hear 
the  distant  roll  of  cannon  almost  all  day  long,  but  so 
low  and  soft,  like  the  distant  rumbling  of  thunder, 
that  unless  there  is  some  one  to  nudge  one,  it  is 
scarcely  perceptible. 

Two  days  running,  yesterday  and  the  preceding, 
we  went  to  the  east  of  Caix  where  the  zigzag  line  of 
trenches  diagonals  off  to  the  first  line,  some  six 
kilometres  off.  There  the  double  roll  of  the  soixante 
quinzes  was  remarkably  distinct.  It  was  a  flat  un- 
dulating plain,  little  patches  of  trees  in  the  back- 
ground and  a  steeple  or  chimney  silhouetted  in  the  far 
distance.  The  trenches  were,  of  course,  unoccupied, 
but  except  for  roofing  in  parts — ready. 


66  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

Moncour,  28  Kilometres  east  of  Amiens. 

The  week  of  walking  was  followed  by  a  week  in 
the  little  feudal  village.  I  got  the  colic  at  Mazieres 
(It's  not  the  one  you  see  on  the  map.) — all  the  mitrail 
did,  from  eating  bad  beans;  so  we  entered  the  hamlet 
rather  down-cast.  Picardie  is  very  flat;  but  still  the 
land  rolls  a  little,  and  in  the  hollows  are  jolly  primi- 
tive villages.  For  two  days  we  were  warned  that  we 
might  leave  any  minute:  then  last  night  the  order 
came  that  we  were  to  depart  at  2:30  A.  M. 

It  poured  all  yesterday  and  last  evening,  so  you 
can  imagine  we  went  to  sleep  in  our  hole  of  chaff  and 
straw  behind  the  mules  with  no  great  relish  for  the 
coming  tramp.  Well,  we  were  routed  out  at  1:30, 
gathered  up  our  muskets,  bayonets,  etc.,  and  rushed 
into  the  fray  to  load  the  mules.  My  kepi  lost  in  the 
straw  as  usual.  Great  strife  among  the  militaires, 
two  being  drunk,  and  having  remained  in  the  straw. 
(We  "touched"  our  pay,  ten  sous,  yesterday.  How 
a  man  gets  drunk  on  that  I  don't  see,  yet  they 
manage  to.)  The  rain  had  stopped.  A  waning  moon 
peeped  out  from  time  to  time, — fuzzy,  as  with  hoar 
frost  in  the  mist.  We  started,  after  a  wait  of  course, 
between  the  first  and  third  battalions  on  a  very 
muddy  road.  Half  the  time  we  walked  in  single  file 
to  avoid  the  deep  mud  along  flat  stretches  of  country, 
almost  no  trees,  from  time  to  time  a  long  faint  flash 
of  cannon  on  the  horizon,  and  twice  or  thrice  the 
flash  of  great  search-lights.  We  smoked  and  talked 
and  watched  the  bobbing  ears  of  the  patient  mules. 
I  chatted  most  of  the  time  with  Rader,  on  Canada, 
the  Pacific,  and  flying.  I  forgot  to  tell  you  that 
Rader  is  an  American  aviator,  who  got  shifted  as  a 
common  soldier,  although  he  is  well  known,  and  ap- 
plied as  aviator.  Naturally  he  was  very  bored  to 
learn  demitour  droite.  I  found  him  four  days  ago 
and  by  great  fortune  and  a  little  pressure  had  him 


THE  LEGION  67 

brought  into  my  piece  of  the  mitrailleuse.  He  has 
earned  his  way  since  seventeen,  but  I  find  it  difficult 
to  teach  him  French.  After  traversing  a  village  with 
a  small  church  perched  on  the  side  hill,  saw  a  few 
artillery  sentinels  with  their  floppy  soft  hats.  (Here- 
dia  says  they  are  a  Basque  costume  hat.)  We  had  a 
long  wait  outside  this  town  and  entered  it  by  broad 
daylight.  I  am  writing  now  in  a  little  cottage, — 
two  rooms,  kitchen-dining-room,  and  bed-room.  In 
the  living  room  where  I  am  is  the  usual  upright  loom, 
half  wood,  half  steel,  the  little  stove  and  coffee-pot 
and  an  old  woman  who  relates  the  German  invasion, 
and  the  battle  of  the  44th  of  the  line  against  them 
(on  the  hill  to  the  east).  The  battle  on  the  hill  is 
graphically  described,  while  the  little  daughter  mends 
my  torn  blue  overalls  and  a  boy  of  six,  with  a  large 
stomach,  eats  sugared  bread.  The  German  Corporal 
who  lodged  (here)  a  day  and  spoke  French  said  he 
had  been  in  Paris,  and  explained  that  France  had 
started  the  war.  He  rummaged  in  their  effects  but 
they  had  the  good  fortune  to  escape  pillage.  The 
uncared  for  French  wounded  were  found  in  the 
fields  nearly  a  week  after.  The  enormous  number  of 
troops  that  poured  toward  Paris  the  day  after  the 
battle,  and  the  flying  return  of  the  remnant  a  few 
days  later — all  this,  and  the  quaint  drawl,  from  a 
slight  provincial  accent,  make  the  theatre  of  the  war 
here  more  real  to  me  than  before.  Rumor  varies  as  to 
our  stay  here.  The  mitrailleuses  are  to  be  separated 
sooner  or  later  to  join  a  Grenoble  regiment,  so  I  shall 
see  more  of  Frenchmen.  On  account  of  the  nearness 
of  going  under  fire  and  my  inexperience,  I  am  to 
start  as  aide-chargeur  of  the  piece  (much  less  danger- 
ous, if  you  want  to  know)  and  work  my  way  up.  Love 
to  Papa,  Conrad  and  Chanler. 

Your  loving, 

VICTOR. 


68  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

Monday  Dec.  21,  1914. 

(Postmarked  Bray) 

Dear  Papa:  I  am  staying  in  this  little  town  for  the 
second  time.  Its  aspect  is  not  the  same  as  when  we 
arrived  with  our  mules  a  week  ago.  Imagine  a  dozen 
or  twenty  houses  on  both  sides  of  a  road.  On  the 
southwest,  directly  behind,  rises  the  grassy  plateau 
abruptly,  while  on  the  other  a  long  double  row  of 
poplars  borders  a  canal.  In  time  of  peace  it  must 
have  been  a  typical  village  of  the  country  side, 
house,  barn,  stables  and  shed  forming  a  square, 
round  a  dirty  courtyard  and  repeated  half  a  dozen 
times.  On  one  side  of  the  road  a  new  brick  church 
with  a  central  tower.  A  small  factory  or  two,  I  should 
judge.  Across  the  bridge  of  the  canal  the  resplen- 
dent house  of  the  Mayor  which  though  only  of  one 
storey,  has  a  slate  roof  instead  of  the  picturesque 
tile,  a  garden  in  front,  and  a  corrugated  tin  barn 
behind.  On  my  arrival  guns  boomed  in  the  distance. 
The  muddy  street  was  paved  with  a  narrow,  crooked 
sidewalk,  cluttered  with  the  bricks  of  ruined  houses. 
Empty  gables  yawned  at  the  sky  as  did  barns  with 
rafters  stripped  of  tiles.  I  wandered  to  a  wall  punc- 
tured with  balls  in  search  of  affiches.  All  were  tat- 
tered and  almost  unrecognizable;  but  no!  an  official 
communique  dated  August  23rd  announcing  French 
successes  in  Lorraine  and  Haute  Alsace.  A  rude  but 
formidable  barricade  of  bricks  and  timbers  barred  the 
view  in  front  of  the  church,  its  formal  belfry  marred 
with  a  great  gash  below  the  spire.  I  wondered  why  the 
bomb-hole  was  on  the  western  side.  Surely  it  was  not 
the  work  of  a  French  gun.  Beyond  the  barricade,  not 
ten  yards,  green  barn  doors  swinging  from  the  ruined 
basement  of  a  factory.  Ahead  the  way  wound  around 
ajcurve  and  the  irregular  firecracker  pop  of  German 
steel  bullets  told  the  direction  of  the  enemy.  The 


THE  LEGION  69 

Mayor's  house  near  where  we  stopped  is  a  forlorn 
ruin  now.  Its  fine  slate  roof  most  mangy  from 
a  bomb.  Before  it  is  the  garden;  under  a  rude  sign- 
board rests  a  Prussian  Lieutenant  born  in  '92.  Be- 
hind a  bomb  has  burst,  scarring  most  ruthlessly 
the  papier-mache  imitation  brick  side  walls,  and  giv- 
ing to  the  tin  barn  a  sieve-like  appearance.  I  walked 
up  the  street  yesterday  and  asked  about  the  steeple. 
There  was  a  German  machine  there  till  the  '75  dis- 
lodged it,  and  that  covered  ditch  was  dug  by  Germans 
while  under  fire  from  the  barricade.  It  seemed  incred- 
ible, it  was  so  near.  We  did  not  spend  the  night 
at  Eclusier;  but  under  cover  of  darkness  marched, 
mitrailleuse  on  shoulder,  to  Frise,  four  kilometres 
under  the  German  fire.  The  journey  was  too  fatigu- 
ing to  enjoy  the  sounds  of  balls  and  lightning-like 
flashes  of  distant  artillery.  We  marched  in  single 
file,  in  silence,  with  all  our  traps,  and  cartridge  boxes 
besides  (three  hundred  each).  No  lights  in  any 
houses,  though  behind  the  boarded  windows  some- 
times a  sound  of  voices.  Arrived  at  a  barn  we  fell 
down  in  some  rank  hay  and  tried  to  sleep  on  the  spot 
where  we  lay,  not  a  match  lighted  to  show  the  space. 
It  rained  and  water  fell  on  us.  The  French  trenches 
we  thought  must  be  very  near — almost  at  hand. 
We  heard  the  crack  so  distinctly  sometimes, — little 
knowing  that  that  was  the  sound  of  German  steel- 
clothed  ball  striking  beside  us.  The  morning  showed 
a  desolate  courtyard,  a  barn  or  so  with  half  the  tim- 
bers gone,  the  farmhouse  vaunting  a  stump  of  chim- 
ney and  the  floor  of  the  second  storey,  tile  roof  here 
and  there  still  remaining.  A  couple  of  carts,  one 
heavy,  with  grass  sprouting  on  it;  the  other  light, 
and  put  out  of  commission  by  having  its  shafts  and 
spokes  cut.  Through  the  back  window  of  the  low 
shed,  we  peeked  up  the  hill.  Three  lines  of  French 
trenches  surmounted  by  the  German  on  the  crest. 


70  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

The  cook  had  gone  up  to  the  kitchen  of  the  3oth  some 
houses  up  the  street.  He  needed  wood:  there  were 
two  gaps  open  to  fire,  but  otherwise  no  danger.  I 
went  with  the  aide  cuisinier.  An  ample  courtyard 
with  a  pump,  a  snug  farmhouse  on  the  right,  and 
beyond  a  manure-pile,  a  large  shed.  A  group  of 
soldiers  smoking,  sleepily  watching -blackened  gamel- 
les  piled  on  bricks  in  the  base  of  a  great  fireplace. 
Red-bearded  all  of  them,  and  speaking  an  odd  French. 
Tent-covers  and  capotes  drying  and  being  cleaned 
of  mud.  Returning  to  the  door  from  that  picturesque 
but  very  smoky  room,  I  looked  upon  the  yard.  Four 
or  five  chickens  in  the  corner  listlessly  scratching. 
The  roof  of  the  shed  had  only  half  of  its  tiles  in  place. 
It  must  have  been  in  range  of  some  vital  point,  for 
"tick,"  a  brick  would  fall,  and  then  a  small  rafter-end 
dropped  down.  A  great  black  turkey  with  a  white 
mate  coquetted  animatedly  across  the  further  end, 
oblivious  of  risk.  I  wondered,  how  odd  that  they  still 
lived  uneaten  by  the  soldiery.  "Tick!"  above  me, 
and  a  slate  fell  from  the  roof.  A  soldier  lolling  at  the 
door  looked  up  as  he  saw  a  brick  of  the  chimney  next 
dislodged.  I  returned  for  more  wood  to  a  barraque, 
but  being  called  off  by  Kohn  to  another  errand  I  sent 
Rader,  who  took  Samuel,  a  little  English  Jew,  as 
companion.  The  story  he  told  me  later  is  more 
exciting.  He  walked  across  the  five  yards  of  open 
space,  looking  to  the  right  of  the  hill.  "So  those  are 

the  German  tren "  "Sing-g-g-,"  and  something 

tapped  the  stone  before  his  feet.  He  made  a  leap  for 
cover,  then  looked  back.  Samuel  had  tried  to  hasten 
too  fast  and  had  fallen  headlong  in  the  mud.  A 
Sergeant  of  the  3oth  (served  the  campaign  in  Alsace, 
sergeant  here  three  months)  came  out  sauntering 
and  "Whap!" — a  bullet  caught  him  in  the  behind, 
slitting  his  nice  red  pantaloons.  The  regular  method 
of  communication  we  soon  found  was  by  means  of 


THE  LEGION  71 

boyaux  or  ditches,  which  traverse  the  gardens,  skirt 
the  lanes  and  hedges  and  connecting  brick  walls. 
They  were  most  disagreeable,  on  account  of  the 
amount  of  water  in  their  lower  levels;  but  still  we  were 
advised  to  use  them.  Going  to  and  from  the  trenches 
with  boards  we  used  to  stop  at  a  cottage  window,  and 
an  old  woman  would  serve  us  cider  from  a  pewter 
litre  measure.  "  Va  t'en  de  cette  porte!"  a  cama- 
rade  would  yell.  An  innocent-looking  door  in  a  brick 
wall — but  examination  showed  a  dozen  freshly 
splintered  holes.  As  we  drank,  "pling-g-g!" — the 
window  sash  rattled  and  the  territorial  drying  his 
feet  by  the  fire  said  on  glancing  up — that  the  brick 
wall  was  struck.  "My  husband,"  said  the  wizened- 
faced  little  old  woman  with  a  gray  handkerchief  tied 
under  her  chin,  "was  shot  as  he  stood  in  the  doorway 
there,"  and  she  pointed  to  the  side  of  the  room 
whence  had  just  come  the  bullet-ring.  But  this 
almost  continuous  shooting  is  of  little  avail  on  ac- 
count of  the  elaborate  system  of  boyaux  on  all 
the  roads  near  the  front,  between  Frise  and  Eclusier. 
There  is  a  continuous  one  cut  six  feet  deep  in  the 
chalk  rock.  ,  The  territorials  work  on  it  by  night. 
To  go  to  the  trenches  there  are,  of  course,  many 
boyaux,  but  the  soil  is  very  muddy  and  the  heavy 
traffic  and  rain  have  bad  effects.  I  got  careless  the 
other  day  and  took  a  forsaken  one  as  a  short  cut. 
My  tent-cover  under  my  arm,  containing  the  alcohol 
lamp  and  bottle,  encumbered  me.  "Pop!"  the 
alcohol  bottle  exploded,  torn  in  two  by  a  bullet. 
Arrived  at  the  trenches  I  took  off  my  coat  and  found 
a  wound  in  the  skin  of  the  biceps  on  my  right  arm. 
The  first  wounded  mitrail!  Nothing  severe,  as  you 
see  I  write  without  difficulty.  By  the  way,  this 
paper  is  from  some  official  book  in  the  Mayor's 
house.  I  am  very  independent  now.  Theoretically 
homme  de  liaison  between  the  mules at  Lapidel 


72  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

and  the  Mitrail  at  Frise.  I  cook  my  food  on  a 
stove  in  the  Mayor's  stable,  wander  up  to  Frise  with 
wine,  go  up  to  see  my  confreres  in  the  trenches  and 
write  to  you  "Merry  Xmas." 

Your  loving, 
VICTOR. 


December  26,  1914. 

Dear  Uncle  Willy:  Xmas  in  the  trenches  was  in- 
teresting but  not  too  exciting.  Beginning  the  eve  be- 
fore, "  conversations  "  in  the  form  of  calls.  "  Bodies," 
"qa  va"  etc.  In  response:  "Bon  camarade"  "ciga- 
rettes," "nous  boirons  champagne  a  Paris"  etc. 
Christmas  morning  a  Russian  up  the  line  who  spoke 
good  German,  wished  them  the  greetings  of  the  sea- 
son, to  which  the  Boches  responded  that  instead  of 
nice  wishes  they  would  be  very  grateful  to  the  French 
if  the  latter  buried  their  compatriot  who  had  lain 
before  their  trenches  for  the  last  two  months.  The 
Russian  walked  out  to  see  if  it  were  so,  returned  to 
the  line,  got  a  French  officer  and  a  truce  was  estab- 
lished. The  burying  funeral  performed,  a  German 
Colonel  distributed  cigars  and  cigarettes  and  another 
German  officer  took  a  picture  of  the  group.  We,  of 
course,  were  one  half-mile  down  the  line  so  did  not 
see  the  ceremony  though  our  Lieutenant  attended. 
No  shooting  was  interchanged  all  day,  and  last  night 
absolute  stillness,  though  we  were  warned  to  be  on 
the  alert.  This  morning,  Nedime,  a  picturesque 
childish  Turk,  began  again  standing  on  the  trenches 
and  yelling  at  the  opposite  side.  Vesconsoledose,  a 
cautious  Portuguese,  warned  him  not  to  expose  him- 
self so,  and  since  he  spoke  German  made  a  few  re- 
marks showing  his  head.  He  turned  to  get  down 
and — fell!  a  bullet  having  entered  the  back  of  his 
skull:  groans,  a  puddle  of  blood. 


THE  LEGION  73 

Dec.  29,  1914. 

Dear  Mr.  Jaccaci:  It  is  very  quiet  in  the  trenches 
since  Christmas.  We  have  orders  not  to  shoot,  and 
the  Germans  only  send  over  about  a  dozen  an  hour  to 
let  us  know  their  presence.  If  it  was  not  for  the  rainy 
weather  the  life  here  would  be  at  least  bearable,  but 
as  it  is,  wetness  combined  with  filth  make  a  hard 
combination  to  be  cheerful  against.  Our  section, 
after  two  weeks  of  sleeping  beside  their  picks,  have 
at  last  got  a  shelter  to  live  and  sleep  in;  but  it  is  far 
too  shallow,  barely  over  three  feet,  and  just  room 
enough  for  all  the  men  to  lie  in,  provided  they  begin 
at  the  corner  and  range  along  head  to  feet  like  sar- 
dines. I  would  have  kicked  for  more  depth,  but  I 
was  at  Eclusier,  the  half-way  station  for  our  provi- 
sions, for  four  days,  while  my  arm  got  attended  to. 
You  see  I  got  a  stray  bullet  through  the  biceps  com- 
ing up  the. boy au,  so  there  was  no  use  (in)  my  staying 
up  in  the  trenches  till  I  was  fit  again,  in  case  of 
attack.  Oh,  Heredia  got  a  scalp  wound  on  the 
23rd.  Very  insignificant,  we  thought,  but  the  in- 
firmary shipped  him  off  with  other  wounded  and  I 
had  only  seen  him  once,  and  given  him  the  papers 
you  sent  me,  never  suspecting  that  he  would  be 
shipped  along  in  the  middle  of  the  night. 

Jan.  15,  1915. 

In  another  letter  to  Jaccaci,  Victor  describes  the 
attempted  rescue  of  a  wounded  comrade  in  a  turnip 
field. 

.  .  .  We  were  creeping  towards  one  another  and 
his  long  brown  beard  seemed  to  grow  out  of  the 
ground.  I  crawled  over  him  and,  after  another  eight 
yards,  reached  a  pile  of  two  sacks  and  a  body  below. 
There  was  no  one  to  say  "  Baisse-toi! "  but  the  object 
before  me  was  enough  to  keep  my  head  down.  Peytic 


74  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

came  after  me  and,  on  my  suggestion,  brought  a 
shovel.  I  pulled  off  the  sacks.  It  was  Samuel,  a  little 
English  Israelite  drafted  to  us  from  Toulouse,  his 
bearded  face  prone  in  a  pool  of  blood.  Twenty  feet 
away  the  boyaux  deepened  and  I  saw  the  heads  and 
shoulders  of  two  or  three  spectators.  Peytic  crawled 
over  me,  passed  on  towards  the  dead  and  we  decided 
to  pull  towards  the  three  men.  He  was  to  pull  the 
corpse  while  I  pushed.  He  turned  on  his  haunches,  the 
better  to  pull,  and  his  kepi  flies  off — a  piece  of  the 
skull  with  it.  On  to  the  body  of  Samuel  he  falls.  I 
conferred  with  Ames,  who  was  behind  me.  No  means 
of  getting  them  out  from  our  side;  so,  having  seen 
with  our  own  eyes  that  the  brancardier  was  un- 
mistakably finished,  we  returned  to  a  deeper  part 
of  the  passage  where  our  sergeant  ordered  us  back 
to  our  mitrailleuse,  as  "in  case  of  attack"  there  was 
nobody  to  man  the  guns. 

Meanwhile  Kohn  and  his  companion  came  to  the 
boyaux  from  the  direction  of  the  3oth,  and,  under  the 
direction  of  Jacobs,  their  Corporal,  got  the  bodies 
away  with  a  rope. 

Don't  let  this  story  I  tell  you  allow  imagination  to 
float  that  I  live  with  balls  whistling  before  my  nose, 
eat  with  companions  who  lose  their  lives  while  col- 
lecting firewood,  etc.  If  the  trenches  are  well  made 
and  one  has  a  reasonable  sense  of  proportion  as  to 
what  is  dangerous  and  what  is  not,  one  is  as  safe  as  in 
Broadway. 

January  14,  1915. 

Dear  Uncle  Willy:  A  thousand  thanks  for  the 
packages.  They  arrived  the  day  before  yesterday  and 
are  the  fulfillment  of  my  wildest  dreams  of  luxury. 
For  the  state  of  filth  I  live  in  here  is  unbelievable, 
and  the  barest  necessities  are  luxuries.  I  get  down 
to  the  depot  and  kitchen  about  every  two  days  for  a 


THE  LEGION 


75 


face  wash.  Our  heads  get  crusted  with  mud, — eyes 
and  hair  literally  gluey  with  it.  We  of  the  second 
section  have  been  living  up  in  the  trenches  where  the 
clay  and  top  soil  mix  and  form  a  slime  which  does  not 
filter  through  the  chalky  rock  lying  below.  Ames  and 
I  have  finished  our  shelter  out  of  our  spare  hours 
when  not  corvee  de  soupe,  or  corvee  de  charbon,  or  tak- 
ing our  turn  at  the  digging  of  the  boyaux. 

Well  I  over- worked  and  got  dysentery;  and  finally 
I  decided  that  I  was  over-doing  this  "bonne  volonie" 
of  always  being  on  hand  when  there  were  big  beams 
to  be  carried  up  for  the  new  shelter.  So  I  asked  for  a 
rest  and  have  been  taking  life  easy  for  two  days.  My 
section  is  to  be  given  a  new  place  in  the  3Oth.  Better 
so  far  as  position,  range,  etc.,  but  we  have  to  begin 
all  over  again  making  shelters  for  the  pieces  and  our- 
selves. Luckily  the  earth  is  better  to  work  in  here. 
After  the  third  foot  you  strike  chalky  stone  which 
gets  hard  at  four  feet;  so  that  the  bottom  of  the 
ditch,  about  six  feet,  is  pretty  hard  work.  The  most 
disagreeable  part  is  the  constant  falling  over  of  the 
top,  or  talus  where  the  diggings  are  thrown.  The 
continual  rain  loosens  the  earth  and  down  it  comes. 
A  little  at  a  time  sometimes,  or  where  the  sentinels 
have  made  scoops  to  lie  in,  whole  blocks.  Then  the 
German  bullets  whistle  and  the  frightened  Legion- 
naires cringe.  (The  fire  always  goes  out  after  a  page 
and  a  half.  Then  I  step  on  the  paper  as  I  re-light 
the  fire,  which  means  mud.) 

I  have  run  across  several  South  Americans — fine 
specimens — good  shots,  generous,  who  crossed  the 
ocean  since  the  declaration  to  fight.  And  they  are 
not  afraid  of  risking  their  skin.  One  I  know  is  going 
out  tonight  between  the  trenches  to  try  to  catch  a 
Boche.  We  had  Bavarians  before  us;  but  we  don't 
know  who  they  are  now.  I  talked  to  an  American 
who  went  out  on  a  fool's  errand  to  entice  a  German 


76  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

out  last  night  without  success.  A  Russian  was  to 
play  wounded  and  ask  help:  the  innocent  supposition 
being  that  kind-hearted  enemies  would  come  out. 
They  had  not  even  begun  groaning  when  the  Ger- 
mans sent  up  rockets  and  chased  the  couple  with 
"Moulin  a  cafe"  (maxim  guns).  (Rodger,  le  jeune, 
ne  gaston  de  Mont  Martre,  seems  to  have  been  a  jack 
at  many  trades.  He  just  now  interrupts  me  to  tell 
how  he  learned  to  milk  in  the  north,  near  Belgium: 
and  when  he  left,  the  guns  had  already  been  there 
four  days.)  Kohn  has  been  off  with  Garcia  Calderon 
(an  interesting  Peruvian  who  is  started  at  the  Beaux 
Arts),  making  plans  of  the  trenches  in  the  vicinity 
of  Frise.  I  would  have  gone  but  I  was  down  with  the 
fever.  They  climbed  the  steeple  which  lost  its  top 
last  week,  and  made  several  amusing  geometrical 
calculations  yesterday  afternoon. 

To  return  to  your  gifts:  the  fancy  waistcoat  is 
almost  part  of  me.  I  never  take  it  off.  The  peri- 
scope I  tried  to  make  but  could  not  owing  to  lack  of 
good  glass.  And  the  flash-light, — well,  I  dare  not 
use  it  all  I  need  for  fear  of  finishing  the  batteries. 
The  Schieffelin  soup  cubes  came  in  very  well,  as  I  had 
knocked  off  the  gamelle  for  a  rest.  If  you  can  find 
more  things  of  the  sort  later  I  should  like  them. 

Your  affectionate  nephew, 
VICTOR. 

January  20,  1915. 

To  the  same:  Your  periscope  is  the  envy  of  every- 
one. Not  even  the  surveying  officer  of  the  3Oth  has 
one  half  as  good.  The  cape  and  sleeping-bag  you 
gave  me  is  a  wonder.  I  used  it  all  last  night  digging 
the  new  abri  for  the  mitrailleuses  in  the  rain  above 
the  trenches.  The  ideal  soldier  now-a-days  is  a 
terrassier  or  subway  digger.  I  would  like  a  sweater 
and  a  pair  of  socks;  but  you  sent  the  latter,  you  say. 


THE  LEGION  77 

A  good  pair  of  boots  if  it  is  not  too  difficult,  29 — 3  or 
4,  is  the  soldier's  number.  I  wore  10  D  in  America, 
but  larger  of  course,  now. 

J/an.  27th,  1915. 

To  the  same:  Superb  candies  and  most  welcome  mag- 
azines. They  are  the  joy  of  the  whole  section.  But  I 
have  no  letters  from  you.  We  (Kohn,  Ames  and  my- 
self), had  a  few  pleasant  hours  in  our  private  cabin 
with  our  stove  and  books  and  eatables.  But  before  we 
had  made  ourselves  really  happy  we  had  to  throw 
everything  in  sacks  and  move  down  to  the  cave  of  the 
3<Dth  near  where  we  have  built  new  abris  des  pieces. 
The  Germans  have  been  dropping  shells  near  us, 
with  no  result,  the  last  two  days.  I  would  like 
some  whisky,  and,  if  you  can  sneak  it,  a  pocket 
camera. 

January  27,  1915. 
(Postcard) 

Living  again  more  or  less  like  cattle  and  working 
nights.  First  sunny  day  in  January  it  seems  to  me. 
With  the  sun  things  are  looking  up  this  morning,  but 
it  is  simply  appalling  how  hard  it  is  to  have  time 
unobstructed  to  oneself.  Eat,  sleep,  and  warm  wet 
feet  is  one's  first  preoccupation  when  not  working 
with  pick  and  carrying  huge  logs.  Our  salvation  here 
is  an  abandoned  phosphate  factory,  where  we  go  at 
night  for  coal  and  bags,  rails,  etc. 

VICTOR  CHAPMAN. 

January  3Oth,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  I  just  received  your  letter  with  Papa's: 
and  two  days  ago  I  had  Papa's  with  Mr.  Jusserand's. 
The  last  week  has  been  one  of  toil;  but  we  are  reaping 
rest  and  leisure  now.  We  moved  the  two  pieces 
from  the  muddy  burrows  on  the  top  of  the  hill  to 


78  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

slightly  level  ground  in  the  bosom  of  the  3<Dth.  Here 
we  built  heavy  shelter  for  each  of  the  pieces.  I,  as 
pointer,  with  Kohn,  the  Corporal,  live  with  our  piece 
where  I  am  now  writing. 

Well,  from  my  point  of  view  the  situation  is  almost 
ideal,  for  instead  of  being  in  a  hole  in  the  ground  with 
only  earth,  sky,  and  rotten  beet-tops,  I  look  out  of 
the  door  across  the  parapet  right  over  the  marshy 
basin  to  the  bluffs  and  Germans  on  the  other  side. 
On  my  right  nestles  in  violets  and  pinks  the  little 
village  of  Frise  with  its  steeple  chopped  off  near  the 
top  (knocked  down  about  the  first  week  in  January), 
a  few  dark  evergreens  and  barns.  But,  look  here, 
I  don't  write  these  letters  to  a  large  and  admiring 
public.  I  don't  consider  them  good  enough  or  the 
right  kind  of  thing.  They  are  just  what  I  think  will 
interest  you. 

The  abri  I  am  living  in  resembles  more  than  any- 
thing the  log-cabin  of  the  pioneer.  The  usual  way  of 
making  the  shelter  here  is  to  dig  a  hole  the  size  you 
want,  put  beams  across  the  top,  then  plank,  and 
finally  lots  of  earth.  Well,  the  ground  here  is  very 
crumbly,  so  Jacob  (Pawtucket-Belgian-butcher), 
conceived  the  brilliant  idea  of  making  the  hole 
larger  and  putting  a  wall  of  sacks  filled  with  earth 
on  which  to  lay  the  stress  of  the  roof.  Our  blessing, 
as  perhaps  I  told  you,  is  a  factory  in  the  swamp  where 
we  go  by  night  and  get  charcoal  sacks,  boards,  even 
iron-ware.  The  depth  of  the  house  is  unfortunately 
regulated  by  the  height  of  the  mitrailleuse  which 
has  to  stand  up  so  that  its  barrel  sweeps  clear  of  the 
ground.  Towards  the  enemy  is  a  narrow  window 
smaller  on  the  outside.  This  we  keep  filled  with 
loose  sacks  of  earth.  The  roof  is  made  up  of  first, 
continuous  rows  of  logs,  which  from  inside  gives  the 
backwoods  character,  on  top  of  which  flat  rocks,  then 
earth,  then  the  most  difficult  and  necessary  article, 


THE  LEGION  79 

corrugated  tin,  finally  earth  masking  the  whole. 
The  weapon  stands  in  the  middle  and  an  improvised 
bed  on  each  side, — three  or  four  boards  and  sacks 
stuffed  with  straw.  At  best,  of  course,  it  is  a  pig- 
pen with  the  clutter  of  everything  from  boites  de 
confiture  and  newspapers,  to  passes-montagnes  and 
peaux-de-moutons.  And  when  these  things  get 
mixed  with  the  everlasting  mud  which  our  shoes 
bring  in  every  time  it  rains  or  snows  (slush),  you  can 
judge  for  yourself.  My  great  joy,  though  vexation 
occasionally,  is  Kohn.  Though  of  such  a  lovable  and 
child-like  innocence  of  character,  he  is  a  softy  from 
having  been  always  pampered.  His  learning  is 
immense.  I  picked  up  a  New  York  Times  last 
night, — article  by  G.  B.  Shaw.  So  I  casually  asked 
Kohn,  who  was  entirely  between  the  sack  curtains, 
what  kind  of  Socialist  was  Shaw?  "A  Fabianist," 
and  with  that  he  gave  me  an  account  of  the  growth 
of  Socialism  in  England,  how  it  influenced  the  con- 
tinents,— the  briefest  kind  of  a  sketch  of  the  points 
of  divergence  between  Socialism  and  Anarchism. 
Well,  I  was  numbed  by  slumber  soon  and  had  to 
beg  him  to  leave  off  till  I  was  in  a  more  receptive 
mood.  And  Political  Economy  is  not  his  line,  for  he 
says  mathematics  is  his  specialty.  With  that  he  is 
of  an  artistic  temperament,  almost  mystic,  in  his  way 
of  doing  things.  Heredia  used  to  say  that  Kohn  did 
the  rude  physical  work  as  though  he  was  performing 
a  religious  rite:  in  fact,  with  such  devotion  and  zeal 
that  he  soon  wore  himself  down  and  became  more 
subject  than  any  of  us  to  the  cliche  we  all  suffered 
from. 

For  the  past  two  weeks  we  have  had  with  us  off  and 
on, — see  him  twice  or  more  every  couple  of  days, — 
the  charming  Peruvian,  Garcia-Calderon.  Well, 
yesterday  he  came,  weeping  nearly,  saying  that  his 
blamed  family  had  got  him  changed  into  the  First 


80  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

Aero, — a  great  honor.  He  departed  for  Paris,  so  if  he 
does  go  through  he  said  he  would  look  up  Uncle 
Willy  and  Mr.  Jaccaci. 

The  trouble  is  with  this  life  I  find  myself  using  up 
all  my  time  as  if  I  was  back  at  Rokeby  making  the 
pigeon-house.  One  goes  down  into  the  valley  and 
forages  for  boards,  window-panes  and  small  beams. 
The  unfortunate  inhabitants  have  at  last  been  sent 
away,  so  we  can  buy  no  more  chickens,  geese,  etc. 
At  night,  for  Frise  is  right  under  the  nose  of  the 
enemies'  guns,  we  go  to  get  coal  for  our  stoves.  The 
evacuated  houses  have  yielded  up  a  quantity  of  this. 
Pillows  and  feather-bed's  are  at  a  premium, — I  con- 
sider these  a  little  unhealthy. 

The  most  boring  procedure  in  the  calm  life  is  when 
there  is  an  alerte.  Now  we  know  by  experience  that 
these  alertes  are  bluffs.  There  are  three  kinds:  at- 
tack on  Albert  predicted,  that  the  French  are  blow- 
ing up  Peronne, — or  (and  this  is  the  worst),  general 
German  advance,  because  of  the  Kaiser's  birthday, 
or  the  anniversary  of  some  German  victory.  We 
have  to  stay  up  all  night,  all  of  us,  and  the  sentinels 
are  doubled  everywhere.  Yours  and  Papa's  letters 
are  a  wonderful  delight  to  me.  I  read  and  re-read 
them.  Love  to  Conrad  and  Chanler. 

Your  loving, 

VICTOR. 

February  i,  1915. 

Dear  Uncle  Willy:  Your  letter  and  a  parcel  con- 
taining: one  sweater,  one  pair  boots,  three  pairs 
socks,  two  bottles  paregoric  pills,  one  tooth  brush, 
one  tooth  paste,  two  pkgs.  tobacco  and  one  pair 
spectacles  came  to-night.  So  far  I  have  received 
everything  you  mention  except  the  forehead  pro- 
tector. The  cape  sleeping-bag  is  fine.  I  put  a  little 
straw  in  the  bottom  and  use  it  either  for  a  comforter 


THE  LEGION  81 

or  as  a  bag.  I  really  feel  I  have  what  I  need,  and  I 
do  not  want  to  encumber  myself  with  more  stuff;  for 
it  only  increases  the  likelihood  of  its  being  lost. 

My  capote  still  holds  together,  and  the  government 
has  given  out  more  trousers.  I  have  one  heavy  suit 
of  underwear  and  two  light  ones;  so  I  wear  the  two 
light  ones  while  the  heavy  are  being  washed.  Preston 
Ames  had  a  coat  and  trousers  of  leather  sent  from 
Paris.  They  resist  the  mud  and  wear,  but  don't 
know  that  they  are  worth  the  trouble.  What  do  you 
know  about  that  waterproof  black  leather?  Is  it  as 
lasting  and  convenient  as  it  looks? 

Ames  is  the  son  of  a  man  who  came  from  Baltimore. 
His  father  was  an  engineer.  The  former  was  the 
black  sheep  of  the  family;  but  finally,  on  a  bet,  took 
up  dentistry  and  later  married  a  Uruguayan.  This 
fellow  has  relations  in  Washington.  Some  kind  of 
kidnapping  story  got  out  in  the  papers  when  he  was 
taken  from  his  American  Aunt.  We  are  now  resting 
on  our  laurels.  Second  Section  mount  guard  at 
night  and  do  the  chores.  I  live  with  Kohn  in  a  shelter 
said  to  be  bomb  proof.  Two  beds  and  the  piece 
between,  with  its  barrel  in  a  creneau  temporarily 
stuffed  with  earth-bags.  The  Germans  must  know 
there  is  something  here  for  they  tap,  tap,  tap  on 
the  parapet  now  every  morning.  Oh!  the  Boches 
dropped  some  nice  shells  for  our  special  benefit  this 
afternoon, — knocked  down  the  talu  before  our  large 
abri.  Do  send  a  baby-camera.  Trouble  be  damned. 
I  see  a  doctor  has  one.  I  enclose  jolly  letters  from 
Papa, 

Affectionately, 

VICTOR. 
February  2. 

After-thoughts,  morning  after:  Mounted  guard,  or 
was  homme  de  traction,  from  two  to  four.  Not  so 
arduous  a  task  as  it  sounds.  After  saying  "Howdy" 


82  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

to  sentinel  of  3Oth,  go  to  make  the  fire  in  the 
main  abri,  and  take  opportunity  of  making  myself 
toast,  set  water  to  boil,  and  read  Aunt  Elizabeth's 
letter  to  you.  They  seem  to  think  I  am  dead  already. 
Why,  so  long  as  I  don't  show  myself,  and  "  Baisse 
toi,  Chapman!"  in  the  shallow  trenches,  nothing 
but  the  small  mischance  of  a  marmite  falling  on 
me  can  do  me  harm.  And  one  has  time  to  duck 
from  these  German  shells.  They  travel  slower  than 
sound  and  wait  before  exploding.  Made  myself  a 
couple  of  cups  of  Russian  tea  (Kohn  just  got  some), 
and  slipped  back  to  my  bunk  a  little  past  four 
after  waking  the  next  man. 

February  8,  1915. 

Dear  Mr.  Jaccaci:  .  .  .  Ah,  the  boots  you  sent!  I 
refrained  from  mentioning  it  before.  What  a  newly- 
discovered  toy!  I  greased  those  boots.  I  took  a 
tallow  candle  and  melted  it  into  the  cracks.  Then 
the  thought  occurred  to  me:  "Why  not  try  them?" 
Nonsense,  waste  of  time — I  can  see  it  has  the  right 
mark.  But  curiosity  overcame  me  and  I  tried.  Well, 
with  enormous  effort  I  could  enter  my  foot,  but  I 
immediately  wanted  to  take  it  out  again.  I  conferred 
with  Platin,  who  sells  shoe  machinery.  He  said  in 
that  form  I  should  take  size  30.  So  I  am  sending  you 
back  the  shoes;  they  say  it  can  be  done,  and  would 
you  change  them  for  a  larger  pair. 

But  to  speak  of  our  excursion  yesterday.  With 
a  huge  leather  bag,  a  periscope,  a  telemetre,  and  a 
pair  of  field  glasses — not  forgetting  five  metres  of 
string, — we  sallied  forth.  To  the  north,  in  Section 
D,  we  examined  a  tunnel  leading  towards  the  Boches. 
We  peeped  over  the  talus  at  the  brown  earthworks— 
the  distance  is  scarcely  thirty  metres  at  that  point. 
Waves  of  earth,  bushes  behind  and  here  and  there  a 
waft  of  smoke.  Round  a  turn  a  little  further  the 


THE  LEGION  83 

Germans  were  dropping  hand  bombs.  Luckily  the 
present  Legion  is  habituated.  They  stood  about  too 
much  in  groups  and  repeated  sale  Boche  as  they  care- 
lessly regarded  the  shifting  smoke  of  the  last  grenade. 
One  clapped  right  over  the  talu  from  Kohn  and  me — 
so  close  that  the  dirt  of  the  falling  fell  on  us.  Well, 
the  shock  is  not  so  much  the  noise  as  the  tremble  of 
the  air,  and  the  danger,  I  judge,  insignificant,  unless 
it  fell  right  on  you,  and  even  then  you  can  get  away 
if  there  is  any  place  to  hide. 

We  walked  into  the  fields  behind  the  trenches  and 
took  distances  and  observations  till  we  came  to  a  wood, 
and  then  we  did  see  what  their  trenches  looked  like.  It 
was  curious  to  observe  two  brown  lines,  with  a  thin 
strip  of  green  between  them,  and  people  shovelling 
from  both.  Little  puffs  of  smoke  rising  from  both — 
and  they  were  at  war,  one  with  the  other.  We  found 
an  "observation"  and  a  little  insignificant-looking 
"75"  hidden  in  the  wood.  One  would  never  think 
it  could  send  such  roaring  shells. 

Night  fell.    We  stopped  at ,  had  some  coffee 

and  cheese  and  downed  an  egg,  and  returned  home 
by  the  canal  in  obscurity.  Thanks  very  much  for  the 
chocolate. 

Yours, 

VICTOR. 

February  10,  1915. 

Dear  Papa:  The  boring  part  of  this  life  is  that  it  is 
only  ideal  for  a  boy  of  fifteen.  Constructing  houses 
without  boards;  camping  out  with  its  hardships  and 
difficulties  to  be  overcome;  generally  living  a  happy- 
go-lucky,  hand-to-mouth  existence;  losing  things 
right  and  left,  if  they  are  abundant; — I  have  lost,  I 
fear,  almost  entirely  my  perspective  of  the  outside 
world.  Now,  therefore,  it  becomes  more  difficult  for 
me  to  describe  what  goes  on  with  color  and  interest. 


84  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

The  tap,  tap  of  Bodies'  bullets  on  the  face  of  my  abri 
in  the  evening  affects  me  about  as  much  as  the  lap, 
lap  of  little  waves  against  the  side  of  my  sail  boat. 
When  out  walking,  corvee  de  charbon,  one  expects 
to  hear  the  mi — eu  (descending  the  scale)  of  spent 
bullets  and  the  pistol  crack  of  others.  The  rumble  of 
distant  artillery  passes  unnoticed,  and  but  mild 
curiosity  is  aroused  by  the  chug-chug-chug  of  a 
machine  gun  as  of  a  steam-motor  boat  rounding  a 
bend.  The  bursting  of  shells  near  by,  of  course, 
attracts  comment, — more  because  it  varies  the 
monotony  than  anything  else.  The  wiseacres  argue 
long  and  earnestly  as  to  whether  it  was  a  cent  or  a 
cent-cinq  that  fell  at  such  a  place.  Any  bearded 
reservist  monotonously  mounting  guard  (a  couple 
of  cache-nez  and  a  peaked  rubber  thing  about  his 
head  and  neck,  giving  him  the  appearance  of  an  old 
woman),  will  tell  right  away  if  the  rumble  over 
there  is  soixante  quinze  (French)  or  soixante-dix  sept 
(German),  or  larger  pieces,  with  shrewd  guesses. 
The  shells  that  fall  on  top  of  us  do,  to  be  sure,  cause 
almost  a  sensation,  not  of  danger  so  much  as  the  fact 
that  there  is  something  happening.  A  distant  ex- 
plosion, a  low  whistle  growing  stronger  and  louder,  a 
flash,  a  blob  of  cotton-wool  smoke  growing  quickly 
larger  and  thinner,  a  roar  as  of  an  emancipated  genie, 
and  the  wind  wafts  away  the  rest. 

It's  all  newspaper  reporters'  machinations  about 
shells  screaming  like  women.  The  amusing  ones  are 
the  small  pieces,  like  75,  for  their  bullets  travel  faster 
than  sound.  One  hears  a  pr-r-r-r-  pung-g!  And  some 
black  smoke  floats  off  in  front  of  the  talu.  I  grab  a 
periscope  and  wait  for  the  next.  Pr-r-r, — out  of  the 
earthworks  opposite  with  the  little  fringe  of  scrubby 
bushes  against  the  horizon  there  appears  a  brown- 
black  asterisk, — a  small  Aurora  Borealis.  A  sound 
or  shock  follows  and  that  is  all. 


THE  LEGION  85 

But  in  this  existence  where  every  plaster  wall  you 
pass  is  scarred  with  bullets,  every  barn  door  seems  to 
have  the  trade-mark,  even  the  board  I  am  writing  on 
which  was  carried  from  Eclusier,  I  found  yesterday 
was  punctured, — amid  all  these  signs  one  is  as  safe 
as  in  any  other  walk  of •  life.  These  whistling  balls 
can  be  compared  to  microbes  in  the  air.  There  are 
thousands,  but  if  the  proper  precautions  are  taken 
one  is  no  more  imperiled  than  from  small-pox  or 
pneumonia.  The  danger  was  when  we  first  arrived. 
No  one  knew  the  lay  of  the  land,  where  it  was  suicidal 
and  where  not.  But  now  everyone  knows  the  ropes. 

About  ten  days  ago  a  young  fellow  (Class  14)  of 
the  3Oth  stuck  his  head  over  the  trenches  to  see  the 
effects  of  a  "75"  and  was  killed  (ball  through  the 
head).  Well,  it  was  such  an  uncommon  occurrence 
that  the  whole  Battalion  of  the  3Oth  was  unnerved. 
The  bearded  veterans, — who  had  seen  their  comrades 
fall  mangled  at  their  sides  and  marched  onward 
through  burning  villages, — they  stood  round  in 
groups  at  corners  of  the  boyaux,  and  I  met  a  cortege 
of  them  carrying  the  corpse,  with  such  an  air  of 
sorrow  and  solemnity  that  it  hit  me  a  dozen  yards 
away.  In  the  Legion  where  people  are  more  careless, 
though  we  have  never  seen  a  battle,  even  an  en- 
counter, they  stow  them  away  the  way  they  bury 
the  entrails  of  a  cow.  It's  perhaps  the  topic  of  a  few 
hours,  such  as  the  dropping  grenades  in  section  D. 

As  for  improving  my  character,  etc.,  one  vegetates 
here  to  the  degree  of  putrefaction.  The  first  three 
weeks  we  lived  under  awful  privations,  so  that  all 
vestiges  of  civilization  dropped  from  us.  Washing 
never,  change  of  clothes  rare,  once  a  week  if  lucky, 
undress  never,  except  to  change.  It  was  forbidden, 
mind  you,  to  sleep  with  one's  shoes  off.  (We  all  do 
it  now,  for  B —  -  found  a  deserted  store  in  Frise  and 
brought  us  back  sabots.)  When  we  did  get  settled 


86  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

down  and  got  a  time  and  place  to  wash,  everybody 
did  it  about  three  times  and  then,  being  so  accus- 
tomed to  live  otherwise,  they  forgot  about  it  soon. 
No  regular  hours  means  that  nothing  gets  done 
properly,  we  often  eat  lunch  at  two  and  supper  at 
nearly  eight.  Of  course  some  one  mounts  guard  every 
two  hours  all  night,  nevertheless  we  drink  coffee 
leisurely  at  9:30  and  toast  our  bread  before  the  grate. 

Everybody  advised  me  not  to  take  money  with  me 
as  I  should  have  no  use  for  it.  But  it  is  the  saving  of 
our  existence  here.  On  this  plan  of  life  the  first  joy 
is  that  of  eating,  and  now  we  are  finding  new  chan- 
nels for  buying  edibles  all  the  time.  Cheese,  jam, 
butter,  tobacco,  wine  from  Cappy, — and  from  the 
fields  we  pick  vegetables  by  night;  also  the  peasants 
have  chickens,  calves,  goats  and  pigs,  which  we  buy. 
Jacob  is  a  wonder.  We  had  roast  pork  yesterday,  and 
this  morning,  head-cheese.  The  day  before,  veal. 
Jacob's  manner  of  preparing  those  left-over  parts  of 
the  animal  makes  them  more  delicious  than  the 
usual  parts.  I  am  sure  he  has  educated  more  than 
half  Rhode  Island  as  to  how  to  live.  He  told  me 
how  he  revolutionized  the  butchers  in  Poccasset. 

Drop  a  line  to  Welch,  will  you  please,  to  deposit 
$500.00  in  Morgan,  Harjes  for  me,  for  my  letter  of 
credit  has  expired.  I  still  have  enough,  but  every- 
one else's  has  given  out.  We  have  a  few  pets  now 
in  the  shape  of  two  goats  and  four  small  rabbits. 
Their  destiny  is  unknown.  I  received  your  Homeric 
poems :  they  remind  me  of  Hotel  de  la  Poste,  Rouen, 
where  I  read  them  first.  Your  Deutschland  Uber 
Alles  has  not  arrived. 

February  20,  1915. 

Dear  Uncle  Willy:  I  have  been  very  much  cut  up 
the  last  three  days  by  the  death  of  Kohn.  He  was 
shot  beside  us  in  front  of  our  abri  while  taking  ob- 


Ill 


THE  LEGION  87 

servations  with  field  glasses  of  hills  to  the  northeast. 
Un  mauvais  hasard.  The  Germans  must  have  a  new 
post  of  observation  which  takes  this  trench  enfilade. 
Michel,  a  Texas  negro,  who  came  over  for  the  war, 
was  shot  through  the  head  a  little  farther  up  the  line 
yesterday.  Poor  fellow!  He  had  demanded  to  be 
put  with  the  Senegalese  because  there  was  not  enough 
fighting  here.  Kohn  is  a  much  greater  loss  to  the 
Section  than  most  people  realize,  for  he  had  the 
brain  of  Pascal.  Though  only  a  Corporal,  he  advised 
the  Lieutenant  in  many  important  questions  and 
was,  day  before  yesterday, — one  might  say, — in- 
triguing with  the  Commandant  of  the  Section,  to  get 
the  mitrailleuse  sections  transferred  en  bloc  into  the 
3Oth.  He  was,  as  his  name  shows,  of  Jewish  descent; 
but  not  of  any  confessed  religion  himself.  His  wife, 
a  French  Argentine,  is  Catholic.  Heredia  has  not 
yet  returned,  so  I  am  thrown  with  Ames.  We,  the 
Mitrailleuse,  hang  together  pretty  well  and  are  loyal 
to  our  chief.  .  .  . 

Yours  affectionately, 

VICTOR. 

February  25,  1915. 

Dear  Uncle  Willy:  Thank  you  again  and  again  for 
the  parcels.  Two  came  last  night.  The  camera! — 
now  I  shall  use  it!  But  four  days  too  late  to  photo- 
graph my  dear  companion  Kohn.  It  is  hard,  in  fact 
I  sometimes  can't  yet  believe  he  was  shot.  I  must 
quickly  take  pictures  of  my  remaining  friends.  I  am 
sorry  I  have  not  as  yet  satisfied  you  as  to  the  things  I 
have  received.  I  did  get  the  flash  light,  but  never 
received  the  breastplate  or  forehead  protector. 
Thank  you  ever  so  much  for  the  tobacco.  (American, 
I  suppose.)  I  had  practically  stopped  smoking  be- 
cause of  the  difficulty  of  making  the  French  tobacco 
burn,  and  because  of  its  strong,  bitter  taste;  but  now 


88  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

I  have  mixed  the  two  and  with  a  little  rum  to  flavor, 
I  am  happy  as  a  chimney.  But  above  all,  those  let- 
ters from  home  were  a  pleasure!  All  about  Hester's 
wedding, — wonderful !  wonderful !  .  .  . 

Your  affectionate  nephew, 

VICTOR. 

P.  S.  Oh,  I  forgot  to  tell  you  the  two  remaining 
peasants  were  evacuated  from  Frise,  and  we  in- 
herited, as  it  were,  a  cow  and  six  calves.  Jacob  made 
the  deal:  so  we  have  milk  now  and  shall  eat  veal. 

March  4,  1915. 

Dear  Papa:  Your  letters  come  here  often,  but 
please  don't  be  worried  about  me.  We  live  a  peace- 
ful life  here  now.  Very  little  friction  because  there 
is  very  little  to  do,  as  in  the  course  of  the  last  two 
months  we  have  rested  ourselves  up,  tout  a  fait 
bien.  I  mourn  the  loss  of  my  Corporal,  Kohn  as  my 
intellectual  companion;  but  otherwise  I  am  really  very 
free  and  well-treated, — do  what  I  want,  in  reason. 

Oh,  the  Paris  newspapers  in  journalistic  style  are 
making  a  reclame  to  find  out  what  troops  have  been 
in  the  trenches  the  longest.  One  Regiment  was  no 
days;  but  it  stated  later  that  they  had  been  relieved 
every  four  days.  So  some  enterprising  fellow  is 
sending  in  our  names  since  we  have  been  here  un- 
relieved since  the  eleventh  of  December,  I  think. 
Hence,  I  may  become  famous  even  as  a  worthless 
poilu. 

Jacob,  who  always  has  an  eye  out  for  the  main 
chance,  got  very  friendly  with  the  three  civilians, 
peasants,  who  were  left  to  guard  houses  here.  An- 
toine,  from  whom  we  bought  pigs,  Achille,  who 
tended  the  cows,  and  Abraham,  his  friend.  Jacob 
had  asked  early  in  their  acquaintance,  whether 
Achille  could  sell  him  any  wine  or  spirits.  With  a 


THE  LEGION  89 

sad  face  the  latter  replied  he  had  only  cider  and  that 
sour.  Well,  about  a  month  ago  Jacob  went  every 
day  for  milk.  He  found  Achille  and  Antoine  quite 
tipsy,  and  they  offered  to  sell  him  four  bottles — 
they  only  had  five — at  2fr.  50  apiece.  A  very  tall 
price,  thought  Jacob,  but  he  would  bring  some 
prospective  buyers  to  taste  it  on  the  following  day. 
Next  afternoon  Platine  and  Jacob  and  Rodger  (to 
carry  a  pig  we  were  getting),  and  I  went  to  taste  the 
wine.  Achille  opened  a  bottle  for  us  to  taste  which 
we  rapidly  drank.  We  argued  a  little,  but  finally 
took  four  bottles,  being  careful  not  to  allow  him  to 
pass  off  on  us  one  small  one.  Then,  to  celebrate  the 
bargain,  we  drank  another.  On  our  way  to  get  the 
pig  we  noticed  a  patch  of  freshly  turned  earth  in  the 
garden  back  of  the  farm.  Jacob  put  two  and  two 
together  and  that  night  sent  Rodger  and  Bianchi 
to  look  in  the  hole.  (The  peasants  are  not  allowed  to 
go  out  after  dark.)  They  found  nothing;  but  the 
next  night  Jacob  went  and  brought  back  six  or  seven 
bottles.  The  moral  Jacob  draws  is  "no  crime  to  steal 
from  a  thief." 

The  Germans  have  been  mining  in  our  old  position. 
This  morning  they  met  the  French  who  were  also 
mining.  They  claim  one  German,  but  they  left  a 
man  in  the  hole.  The  Captain  of  ist  Company  and 
Commandant  come  up  and  stand  about  discussing 
what  ought  to  be  done.  Of  course  the  first  thing  the 
Germans  did  was  to  set  off  a  mine.  An  Adjutant  got 
badly  hurt;  but  the  other  officers  were  only  well- 
smashed  with  ground.  Now  we  are  on  tenter-hooks 
lest  they  try  an  attack.  I  just  went  to  supper,  some 
one  came  rushing  in — "Alette!"  and  helter  skelter 
we  mount  our  pieces!  It  was  nothing  but  a  few 
Germans  shooting  at  a  fuse  (rocket.) 

Uncle  Willy  sent  me  a  steel  cuirasse  guaranteed 
proof  against  bullets  at  5  yards.  I  stuck  it  up  beside 


90  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

my  cabin  and  immediately  crash!  snap!  snap!    Three 
good  holes  ripped  in  it.    I  should  think  the  merchant 
who  puts  that  on  the  market  should  be  prosecuted. 
Think  of  the  hundreds  and  thousands  of  poor  wives 
who  may  buy  that  worthless  tin  and  send  it  by  mail 
to  their  husbands. 
The  Post.    Best  love  to  all. 
Your  loving, 

VICTOR. 

March  8,  1915. 

Dear  Papa:  Still  here  in  the  trenches!  Nothing 
has  changed  in  our  position  since  Christmas,  I  might 
say.  We  vegetate  and  vegetate.  Minor  incidents 
occur  around  us.  The  French,  or  rather  the  Legion- 
naires^ who  were  mining,  ran  into  the  Germans  who 
were  doing  the  same.  I  think  I  told  you.  The  day 
after  making  a  couple  more  tunnels  we  had  the  good 
sense  to  blow  them  up  before  the  Germans  set  off 
theirs.  Hence  we  have  been  four  or  five  in  the  abri 
alerte  all  afternoon.  The  French  guns  appear  to 
have  silenced  the  bothersome  Boches'  battery  which 
used  to  drop  marmites  on  Cappy,  the  town  in  our 
rear  where  the  mules  of  the  mitrailleuse  are,  and 
where  our  Regiment  and  a  couple  of  others  go  to 
repos.  My  friends  in  the  Companies  told  me  it  was 
startling  how  well  informed  the  Germans  were. 

A  week  ago  Sunday  the  band  was  due  to  play  at 
three  o'clock;  at  3:15  the  first  piece  was  scarcely 
finished — zizz,  boom!  Everyone  rushed  for  the 
cellars!  Next  morning  our  General  of  Brigade  was 
to  have  a  review  at  10  o'clock.  Every  battalion 
turned  out  in  its  best  and  was  lined  up  in  the  street. 
(I  think  there  is  only  one.)  Immediately  shells  began 
falling.  Uncle  Willy's  last  parting  blessing  to  me  was 
a  letter  in  which  he  told  me  to  write  Norman  Prince 
at  Pau,  where  he  is  getting  up  an  American  aviation. 


THE  LEGION  91 

I  don't  know  what  will  come  of  it.  Probably  there 
will  be  more  trouble  than  I  am  worth  to  get  me  out  of 
here.  I  can,  of  course,  stick  to  this  job  to  the  bitter 
end.  From  the  point  of  view  of  the  soldier  (who 
looks  after  comfort)  and  not  being  embete,  I  am 
tout  a  fait  bien  here, — on  splendid  terms  with  every- 
one practically,  exempt  from  service, — for  though 
no  one  says  it,  the  nouveaux  who  have  come  to  fill 
out  our  vacancies  do  most  of  the  necessary  chores, — 
and  very  comfortably  installed.  (My  mind  seems  to 
run  on  this  theme.  I  suspect  I  wrote  you  before.) 

The  characters  here  and  the  scenery  are  my  prin- 
cipal interests.  I  shall  describe  the  men  of  our  Sec- 
tion to  you  beginning  with  the  more  picturesque 
characters.  There  was  Nedim,  Nedim  Bey,  a 
Turk, — a  black  heavy-faced  Turk,  and  a  typical 
Asiatic.  He  always  wore  two  passes-montagnes,  one 
pulled  down  round  his  chin  so  that  his  grizzled  un- 
kempt beard  and  nose  protruded  through.  I  believe 
he  had  been  sent  by  the  Turkish  Government  to 
study,  and  had  worked  in  the  French  cannon  fac- 
tories. At  any  rate  the  Lieutenant  had  a  high  ad- 
miration for  him  which  no  one  could  understand. 
His  French  was  wonderful!  The  article  did  not  exist, 
but  he  was  fond  of  the  preposition  de;  as,  mon  de 
pain.  He  got  permission  at  both  places  to  build  a 
separate  hole  for  himself.  After  working  night  and 
day  till  it  was  finished  he  would  light  a  roaring  fire 
and  sleep  in  an  atmosphere  warm  enough  to  boil 
an  egg.  At  the  other  position  he  had  a  dug-out 
about  five  feet  long  by  two  high,  with  a  grate  fire  at 
the  end  of  it.  And  he  slept  with  his  head  against  the 
fireplace!  His  love  for  fire  resulted  in  his  burning 
ends  and  patches  of  all  his  clothes,  and  about  his 
abri  were  always  strewn  pieces  of  burnt  sacks. 

I  recall  up  at  that  dire  hole,  our  first  abri,  one  day 
no  water  for  the  coffee!  But  the  sceau  had  been 


92  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

monte.  Inquiry  showed  that  Nedim  had  taken 
seulement  un  quart  to  put  out  a  fire  in  his  damned  abri! 
He  was  most  renowned  for  his  having  a  rather  wan- 
ton showy  rashness,  and  for  the  quantity  of  car- 
tridges he  burnt.  Being  the  pet  dog  of  the  Lieuten- 
ant, he  got  all  the  cartridges  he  wanted  from  the 
3Oth,  from  the  infirmary,  etc.  Whenever  an  officer 
would  pass,  he  would  burn  a  few.  Of  a  night  he  shot 
often  as  many  as  150.  "//  va  etre  cite  a  r order  du 
jour  a  force  de  tirer  sur  la  lune"  it  was  whispered. 
He  made  an  indestructible  creneau  from  which  he 
pumped  shot.  Inevitably  the  Germans  soon  located 
it  and  the  other  day  he  was  hit  in  the  head  and 
evacuated. 

Next  comes  Cluny,  our  little  Portuguese  sea- 
Captain.  Dark,  weather-beaten,  steel-eyeglasses 
and  a  soft  moustache.  His  French  also  is  admirable. 
He  spouts  away  most  interestingly  about  ships  and 
the  sea,  but  it  is  difficult  to  follow  for  every  third 
word  is  Portuguese.  My,  how  he  loves  his  coffee! 
He  has  a  mania  for  how  it  shall  be  made.  He  goes 
up  in  the  air  and  thinks  the  world's  agin  'im,  very 
easily.  He  hates  eels  for  instance,  and  was  so  dis- 
gusted when  he  saw  some  the  other  day  in  our  re- 
union abri  that  he  threw  his  gamelle  over  the  talu. 
He  has  inherited  Nedim's  last  abri  and  the  first  thing 
he  did  was  to  cut  a  hole  in  the  sack  earth-wall  to  let 
out  the  gases  from  the  stove.  His  stories  of  the  sea 
are  most  absorbing:  for  he  has  crossed  the  ocean  as 
captain  of  a  sailing  ship. 

Post. 

Your  loving, 

VICTOR. 

March  13,  1915. 

Dear  Mr.  Jaccaci:  Yesterday  afternoon  the  Ger- 
mans set  off  a  mine  before  our  trenches — a  slight 


THE  LEGION  93 

earthquake,  followed  by  a  great  eruption  of  earth 
and  continuing  like  a  geyser  for  what  appeared  some 
time.  Then  clouds  of  smoke  and  the  falling  of  chunks 
of  earth.  As  you  may  imagine,  a  first  class  alerte 
followed  and  we  remained  on  the  qui  vive  all  night. 
This  morning,  bombardment  of  heavy  artillery  of 
the  trenches  opposite,  to  pay  them  back  for  the  large 
bombs  they  dropped  on  our  trenches  during  the  night. 
Now  all  is  quiet  again  and  one  hears  the  happy  sky- 
larks overhead  in  the  mist. 

Your  copy  of  Papa's  book  came  last  night,  and  I 
read — what  luxury! — through  the  night  watches. 
Papa  sent  me  a  copy,  he  said,  long  ago,  but  it  has 
never  come.  My  only  regret  is  that  Kohn  was  not 
here  to  enjoy  it  with  me,  for  he  must  have  known 
those  demented  professors,  all  at  least  by  reputation, 
for  he  studied  five  years  in  Berlin  at  gymnasiums,  etc. 

Uncle  Willie's  last  letter  spoke  of  a  Norman  Prince, 
who  was  getting  up  an  American  Aero  Corps  at  Pau, 
and  told  me  to  write  him.  This  I  did.  What  do  you 
hear  about  it?  I  would  feel  like  an  embusque  if  the 
mitrailleuse  company  returns  on  the  firing  line,  but  I 
doubt  it. 

Keep  your  health  and  feed  the  children  well  for 
me.  My  regards  to  Bliss. 

Your  affectionate, 
VICTOR  CHAPMAN. 

March  14,  1915, 
Cabin  of  Mitraille. 

Dear  Papa:  As  I  remember,  my  last  letter  was  one 
gloomy  groan.  I  must  have  had  a  stomach-ache. 
We  are  very  happy  up  here  now  because  everyone 
does  his  duty,  things  run  smoothly  and  there  is  very 
little  scolding.  The  Germans  blew  up  a  big  mine 
farther  up  the  hill  from  us.  A  shock,  a  fountain  or 
geyser  of  earth  accompanied  by  low  growling,  then 


94  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

clouds  of  smoke  and  the  patter,  patter  of  falling 
debris.  A  real  alerte  we  had,  you  may  be  sure;  but  the 
Boches  saw  they  had  rate  the  coup,  having  only  blown 
up  the  ground  in  front  of  the  trenches,  and  did  not 
attack.  We  stayed  an  hour  and  a  half  behind  the 
half-open  creneau  in  the  late  afternoon,  hearing  not 
as  much  as  a  musket  crack;  only  the  skylarks  sing- 
ing. 

Yesterday  the  French  provoked  the  German 
batteries  with  a  few  heavy  guns.  The  latter  took 
vengeance  on  us  and  we  had  the  most  heavy  bom- 
bardment that  I  have  so  far  experienced.  Tremen- 
dous waste  of  ammunition  and  quite  harmless.  After 
they  had  tired  of  sprinkling  the  trenches  and  the 
surroundings  here,  they  concentrated  on  Frise.  From 
our  boyaux  we  enjoyed  the  spectacle.  They  did 
their  best  to  burn  the  whole  place  down, — queer 
shells  which  exploded  like  rockets  and  sent  off  trailing 
fuses.  They  did  succeed  in  starting  a  fire  the  other 
side  of  Cunal  in  Antoine's  farm  (where  we  bought  the 
pigs),  and  a  couple  of  buildings  burnt  brightly  all 
night. 

I  am  happy  to  say  that,  in  this  trench  warfare,  we, 
the  mitraille,  for  our  amusement,  are  getting  the  best 
of  the  Germans  opposite.  Up  to  now  they,  having 
the  higher  and  better  situation,  have  dominated  our 
trenches  with  their  creneaux,  and  demolished  all  the 
creneaux  the  3Oth  or  the  Legion  have  put  in.  We 
have  by  means  of  cast  iron  pipes  (gutter  drains  from 
Frise),  arrived  at  a  simple  and  efficient  system  of 
smashing  theirs  all  to  pieces  now.  Having  well 
located  the  direction  of  a  certain  hostile  creneau  by 
day  we  put  in  the  pipe  opposite  at  night.  The 
other  end  is  scarcely  visible  through  the  talu.  Then 
systematically  we  empty  cartridges  into  it  till  the 
wooden  support  is  cut  and  the  hole  plugged  with 
stones.  The  principal  feature  is  that  the  only  spot 


THE  LEGION  95 

from  which  you  can  be  attacked  is  the  creneau  you 
are  already  shooting  into,  and  their  favorite  resort  of 
cross  fire  is  ineffective.  In  the  last  three  days  we 
have  destroyed  the  19  creneaux  opposite. 

Ames  just  came  in  from  his  guard  in  the  height  of 
spirits.  Three  or  four  of  them  had  given  a  few -feu  de 
salve  and  the  Germans,  getting  nervous,  sent  up  a 
rocket.  The  moment  it  burst  he  shot  it,  thus  ex- 
tinguishing it.  The  Germans  do  have  a  certain  sense 
of  humor  though.  They  have  a  stick  with  straw  on 
the  end  which  they  wave  behind  the  creneau,  now 
up  and  down,  now  sideways. 

March  15. 

I  continue  to  run  across  amusing  characters.  A 
Bedouin  who  ran  away  from  his  native  land  because 
he  killed  the  chief.  He  travelled  all  through  north 
Africa  and  paid  his  way  because  he  could  read  the 
Koran,  and  is  here  because  a  French  officer  saved  his 
life  when  he  had  the  small-pox;  whereupon  he  swore 
to  serve  France  in  her  next  war.  Ames  talks  Spanish 
to  him;  he  knows  very  little  French.  There  is  a  very 
powerful  Catalonian  called  Ligio  who  is  famous  for 
doing  what  he  damn  pleases  and  sends  the  Lieuten- 
ant to  hell  when  he  is  reprimanded.  All  his  friends 
pray  that  he  won't  be  passed  to  the  conseil  de  guerre, 
but  in  the  meanwhile  he  is  cock  of  the  roost  in  his 
section.  There  is  a  Roman  painter  named  Pergola 
who  ran  away  from  Rome  because  he  so  dreaded  the 
military  service.  They  say  he  has  talent,  and  he 
certainly  seems  to  be  a  man  of  ideals  and  hard  work. 
I  found  mounting  guard  beside  my  abri,  a  typical 
Russian  Jew  type, — large,  hooked  nose,  black  hair 
and  beard,  small  eyes,  but  not  lean, — fat  and  well- 
favored,  like  a  Berkshire  hog.  An  artist  he  said  he 
was,  but  since  he  seemed  to  consider  the  landscape 
chill  and  dirty  in  color,  I  wondered.  He  is  one  of 


96  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

those  creatures  of  Paul  Poiret  who  concocts  those 
decorations  and  color  complications  which  yell  like 
cayenne  pepper. 

I  got  a  copy  of  your  Deutschland  Uber  Alles  from 
Jaccaci.  Capital !  I  had  seen  one  or  two  of  those  fool 
remarks,  but  not  by  any  means  the  greater  part.  I 
hope  it  sells,  for  it  shows  up  their  craziness  so  won- 
derfully well.  I  have  been  reading  my  Galsworthy 
again, — a  collection  of  English  verse  by  a  French- 
man, bad  as  a  selection  of  verse,  but  still  interesting, 
a  short  story  by  Alfred  de  Vigny,  and  your  Homeric 
Scenes. 

Strange  and  violent  ends  some  of  the  books  of 
Frise  have  come  to.  Outside  our  cabin  door  I  found, 
for  cleaning  the  gamelles,  the  pages  of  the  Swiss 
Family  Robinson  in  French;  while  yesterday,  before 
another  cabin,  I  found  pages  of  Quentin  Durward, 
also  in  French.  British  authors  are  not  the  only 
sufferers,  however.  The  third  volume,  yet  intact, 
except  the  back  cover,  of  the  Meditations  of  St. 
Ignatius  is  placed  over  the  stove  for  lighting  pipes. 
Tell  Alee  that  the  only  thing  which  keeps  me  from 
going  out  dark  nights  into  the  Boche  trenches  is  that 
I  know  it  would  pain  her  if  I  got  needlessly  zigue. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

Trenches,  Frise, 

March  17,  1915. 

Dear  Conrad:  I  hear  from  Papa  that  you  now  write 
poems  to  the  Tortoise  almost  daily!  It  does  not 
follow,  however,  that  you  can  criticise  my  spelling  or 
punctuation,  for  I  am  a  privileged  character.  I  am 
sitting  outside  my  cabin  with  all  my  bedclothes,  etc., 
"marche  aux  guenilles"  on  the  talu  around  me.  In 
the  valley  before  me  the  German  balls  re-echo  like 
breaking  waves  along  a  rocky  coast.  Now  and  then 


THE  LEGION  97 

the  roll  of  a  distant  cannon  swells  up.  But  yesterday 
it  was  different.  Ames  and  I,  sleeping  late  after 
our  night  watches,  both  felt  our  cabin  shake,  and 
jumping  to  our  feet  at  the  same  moment  we  cleared 
the  deck  for  action  and  opened  the  half-stuffed 
creneau.  Almost  all  the  morning  an  intermittent  but 
severe  bombardment.  Rumors  came  in  fast  of  a 
mine  explosion  in  Section  D.  This  time  it  appeared 
the  Germans  really  had  done  damage.  The  trenches 
were  evacuated.  A  Spanish  Sergeant  saw  one  of  his 
men  knocked  unconscious  over  the  talu,  calmly  got 
up  with  a  pick-axe,  dug  him  out  and  pushed  him  into 
the  trench.  Unfortunately  just  as  he  was  stepping 
back  a  ball  went  through  his  head.  There  were 
something  like  twenty-five  wounded  and  five  killed 
from  that  mine.  The  mitrailleuse  up  in  that  section, 
they  say,  will  be  porte  a  Vordre  du  jour  because  it 
did  not  run  away.  A  friend  of  Ames,  an  Argentine, 
came  over  for  the  war,  was  killed  by  a  shell.  So  Ames 
went  down  to  see  about  burying  him.  Though  a  most 
sluggish,  undemonstrative  person  he  came  back  much 
impressed  with  the  poste-de-secours  atmosphere.  A 
score  of  wounded  and  dying  but  no  corpses.  Then 
he  noticed  a  doctor  come  out  of  a  little  cave  in  the 
side-hill  back  of  the  house,  and  through  the  door  he 
saw  his  friend  with  half  a  dozen  others.  Out  in  the 
little  cemetery  he  saw  a  man  gaping  vacantly  at  the 
tombs.  When  spoken  to  all  he  answered  was:  "How 
did  I  escape?  How  did  I?  How  did  I?"  The  more 
I  see  in  this  war  the  more  impressed  I  am  that  horse 
sense  and  calm  are  very  rare  qualities.  A  little  later 
I  undressed  a  man  I  found  running  up  and  down  the 
boyaux  shouting  "So  moru"  (Portuguese,  I  believe.) 
A  wall  made  of  earth-bags  had  leaked  a  bullet 
through,  which  got  him  in  the  chest  well  below  the 
heart.  Very  painful  indeed,  I  am  sure,  but  a  man 
does  not  run  about  when  he  is  dying.  You  can  see  by 


98  LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

my  attitude  and  manner  of  talking  that  I  also  am 
getting  calm  and  unfeeling  to  this  harrowing  side  of 
the  game.  One  has  to  "take  them  (the  horrors) 
lightly"  for  otherwise  the  life  would  be  an  unbearable 
nightmare. 

The  upshot  of  yesterday's  activity  was  that  the 
Legion  was  relieved  at  three  o'clock  this  morning  and 
the  3oth  has  replaced  them  in  the  whole  section. 
(A.  B.  C.  and  D.)  What  will  happen  to  them  I  don't 
know.  We,  the  mitraille,  hope  to  be  attached  to  the 
3oth,  but  of  course  the  Colonel  of  the  3 me  Regiment 
de  Marche  de  PEtr  anger  wants  to  keep  us.  It  is  a  very 
pleasant  sensation,  now  that  the  buds  are  out  and 
there  are  signs  of  spring,  to  be  waked  by  our  friends  of 
the  passing  battalion.  A  happy  visit  which  brings 
home  the  fact  one  already  knows  of  the  change  of 
men.  While  I  write  the  fellow  beside  me  looks  at  a 
soldier  beside  the  canal  who  hides  behind  a  tree  from 
German  bullets.  Drss-ss-ss  Chung!  A  bomb.  And 
we  have  just  been  shoved  into  the  abri.  Latest  news 
has  it  the  fellow  is  wounded  in  the  leg.  Some  one 
has  gone  to  help  him. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

P.  S.  I  did  have  a  bullet  go  through  my  arm.  But 
I  would  not  know  it  now,  save  for  the  scar. 

[The  articles  referred  to  at  the  close  of  the  following 
letter  appeared  in  newspapers  all  over  the  United 
States,  and  gave  Victor's  parents  great  satisfaction. 
They  were  high-colored,  journalistic  sketches,  in 
which  Victor  invariably  appeared  as  the  hero,  the 
rescuer,  the  resourceful  stage  person.  They  had 
about  them  that  false  glare  of  literature  which  the 
public  loves,  and  which  the  soldier  hates;  and  I  used 
to  forward  them  to  Victor  in  order  to  annoy  him. 


THE  LEGION  99 

He  could  not  be  expected  to  understand  that  the 
glamor,  limelight  and  bad  taste  in  them  were  the 
conventions  of  a  certain  kind  of  newspaper  work.— 
EDITOR.] 

En  repos,  April  12,  1915. 

Dear  Papa:  I  have  been  puzzled  lately  as  to 
whether  you  were  sailing  or  not;  but  a  postal  from 
Jaccaci  seems  to  confirm  the  idea  that  you  are.  I 
ask  myself  time  and  again  whether  I  am  still  doing 
all  I  can  here  and  getting  out  of  it  the  uttermost. 
Also  whether  I  would  be  better  elsewhere.  I  am 
very  tempted  to  catch  at  any  straw  to  put  myself  in 
a  position  where  I  can  do  more  than  vegetate  and 
make  myself  proficient  in  the  wily  art  of  breaking  the 
rules  without  being  caught  as  a  school  boy.  But 
then  I  think  of  my  allegiance  to  my  Captain  and  to 
my  comrades,  my  Sergeant  and  my  Corporal.  They 
have  all  been  very  fair  to  me.  And  how  I  lately 
cursed  -  -  as  embusques.  "Am  I  also  trying  to  be 
the  same?"  I  think!  It's  only  natural  that  one 
should  be  more  intellectually  bored  and  fatigued  en 
repos  than  in  the  trenches  where  one  is  filling  at 
least  a  potential  function.  "In  case  of  attack"  one 
would  be  of  use.  I  suppose,  perhaps,  what  I  crave  is 
intercourse.  It  takes  two  to  enjoy  the  scene,  to 
study  the  character  of  the  soldiers,  etc.,  not  so  much 
the  first  day  or  the  second,  but  the  hundred  and 
second.  Very  egotistic  to  go  on  talking  about  my- 
self, but  it's  an  outlet.  I  go  and  see  Farnsworth  daily 
and  catch  myself  making  estimates  as  to  how  he 
keeps  up  his  interest.  But  then  he  is  more  self- 
sufficient  and  self-satisfied; — besides  he  does  have 
Sokona  to  talk  to.  Perhaps  I  did  not  mention  that 
Farnsworth  came  up  with  the  re-inforcements  along 
in  February.  I  met  him  as  an  undergraduate  at 
Harvard  (in  '12).  Beans  by  inheritance  but  a  wan- 


ioo         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

derer  by  choice.  I  must  say  I  come  back  feeling 
gayer  after  seeing  him.  Perhaps  after  all  I  am  always 
doomed  to  be  unhappy  for  I  have  the  insight  not 
to  be  content  with  things  as  they  are  and  lack  the 
necessary  force,  or  push,  to  make  them  otherwise. 
I  rather  excuse  myself  in  this  case  a  little,  since  army 
people,  juniors  especially,  "know  it  all."  You  must 
take  my  letters  with  a  pinch  of  salt,  as  I  think  I  re- 
marked to  Mr.  Jaccaci,  for  I  generally  write  in  a  mel- 
ancholy mood.  If  I  feel  gay  I  look  up  companions, 
buy  a  rabbit,  get  wine,  and  have  a  peasant-wife 
make  a  meal.  The  only  rule  that  I  constantly  run 
a-foul  of  here  is  that  everyone  is  forbidden  to  leave 
his  cantonment,  i.  e.  barn-yard  and  manure  pit — till 
five  in  the  morning.  Unfortunately,  on  account  of 
my  size  I  am  easily  recognizable  and  the  Captain  has 
caught  me  now  twice.  He  is  lenient  enough  and 
does  not  like  to  punish,  so  he  has  let  me  off. 

Your  enclosures  of  Rader's  articles  have  come.  I 
should  not  have  thought  that  such  whoppers  would 
be  printed  east  of  the  Mississippi,  save  perhaps  in  a 
Hearst  sheet.  There  are  seeds  of  truth  in  some  of 
his  remarks,  at  least  I  can  see  where  he  had  the  idea; 
but  I  have  to  give  him  the  credit  of  the  most  power- 
ful imagination.  From  the  first  night  in  Frise  we 
noticed  that  he  was  considerable  of  afroussard.  And 
the  week  following  he  proved  to  be  an  unprecedented 
"tireur-au-queue"  He  developed  one  sickness  after 
another  to  get  out  of  the  trenches.  Finally  got 
evacuated  to  get  a  bath  on  account  of  lice  (no  one 
had  them)  and,  at  Moncourt,  by  pretending  he  was 
English,  got  shipped  to  London.  During  the  whole 
of  the  time  he  stayed  at  the  Front  his  sojourn  in  the 
trenches  proper  could  never  have  exceeded  fifteen 
to  twenty  days.  His  only  talent  was  that  of  making 
caricatures,  which  he  did  well,  and  a  manner  of 
getting  what  he  wanted  which  demands  admiration, 


THE  LEGION  101 

considering  he  neither  talked  much  French  nor  could 
understand  it  beyond  the  simplest  phrases. 

I  have  just  received  your  book  of  Essays.  The 
title  smacks  of  Arnold  Bennett  and  somehow  sug- 
gests that  you  are  enjoying  a  ripe  old  age.  But  I  do 
enjoy  the  contents.  I  just  glow  in  the  warmth  and 
luxury  of  reading  it.  The  Times  is  all  I  have  as 
literature  else.  I  have  found  a  fellow  who  is  binding 
it  for  me.  Our  "cossack"  Rodger,  who  kept  the 
cows  for  us  at  Frise,  calls  himself  relieur. 

It  was  amusing  to  see  the  different  effects  which 
Rader's  articles  produced  on  our  little  society. 
Lacasagne  cast  melancholy  despairing  smiles — he 
knew  he  was  a  froussard  and  a  fearful  shirker;  and 
to  add  to  these  a  desperate  liar,  makes  him  out  a 

pretty  bad  character.    But  H ,  the  Dutch  Jew, 

went  into  ecstasies  at  the  cleverness  and  "nerve" 
of  the  man,  and  immediately  borrowed  paper  and 
pencil  from  me  and  wrote  a  most  windy  description 
to  an  Amsterdam  paper,  as  an  hors-d'oeuvre  of  what 
he  could  do  if  they  asked  him. 

April  16. 

We  have  been  having  reviews  and  marches.  An 
intimate  inspection  by  General  Castelnau  (Com- 
mander of  the  2nd  Army,  I  think). 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

[In  the  Spring  of  1915  Victor's  parents  and  Mrs. 
William  Astor  Chanler  made  a  trip  to  France.  They 
obtained  permission  to  go  to  Amiens,  and  Victor, 
who  was  in  the  trenches  near  by,  was  on  May  8  given 
twenty-four  hours  furlough.  It  was  a  picturesque 
and  happy  day,  and  in  the  course  of  it  the  photo- 
graph of  Victor  as  Legionnaire  was  taken.  We  were 
to  see  him  once  again;  for  a  few  weeks  later  the 
French  Government  in  honor  of  the  4th  of  July,  and 


102         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

at  the  request  of  Ambassador  Sharp,  gave  the  Amer- 
ican volunteers  in  the  Legion  forty-eight  hours  fur- 
lough to  visit  Paris. — EDITOR.] 

Cantonment  under  tent-covers  in  garden  of  village 
of 

Dear  Alee:  The  foregoing  slip  was  written  during 
the  exercise  this  morning  in  a  charming  wood  with 
the  leaves  just  popping  out,  and  the  early  blossoms 
and  ground  flowers  out.  There  is  not  much  of  any 
sign  to  indicate  that  we  are  not  to  stop  here  for  some 
time.  The  Captains  and  Commandants  get  fur- 
loughs of  four  or  five  days  for  Paris.  The  buglers  go 
out  in  the  neighborhood  and  practice  the  barrack 
calls.  The  Captains  disturb  us  with  reviews  of  ef- 
fects, and  thefournisseurs  are  busy  giving  us  new  light 
blue  capotes,  etc.  I  rather  think  we  were  moved 
from  the  last  town  of  Hangest  because  there  was  a 
great  lack  of  water  there.  Now  we  usually  do 
marches  and  exercises  in  the  early  morning  because 
it  has  suddenly  become  quite  hot.  In  the  afternoon 
theory,  nettoyage,  or  repos.  I  usually  get  a  chance  to 
go  in  swimming.  Francois  would  not  take  Fahns- 
worth  because  the  latter  was  in  prison  (for  the  same 
offense  as  Ames  and  myself  i.  e.  late  at  appel).  We 
are  not  over  much  plagued  by  rassemblements,  drills, 
etc.,  but  I  am  naturally  somewhat  bored  at  the 
thought  that  we  may  never  see  fire  again.  Even 
Fahnsworth  is  getting  bored  at  the  outlook  of  re- 
maining here  with  reviews,  exercise,  alertes,  and  the 
like.  Oh,  I  do  want  to  ask  you  one  very  sad  errand 
yet, — I  know  you  or  Papa  will  do  it  so  well,  so  much 
better  than  anyone  else.  It  is  to  see  and  say  a  com- 
forting word  to  Mme.  Kohn,  I  rue  des  Etangs,  Char- 
mont.  Perhaps  she  has  moved,  or  my  last  letter 
gone  astray  since  I  have  not  heard  from  her. 

Everyone  is  asleep  about  me  in  our  improvised 


THE  LEGION  103 

summer  tent,  only  the  puppy  is  chewing  some  one's 
shoes  and  in  the  courtyard  I  hear  a  soft  harmonica. 
It  is  a  hot  noon  day.  A  true  war  dog  this,  born  in 
the  trenches  where  his  father  was  killed  by  a  shell. 
He  (Dompierre)  and  his  two  sisters,  Frise  and 
Cappy,  traveled  here  in  the  musettes  of  kindly 
soldiers,  while  his  mother  marched  in  front  with  the 
7th  Company.  Now  he  is  with  us,  but  mother  and 
sisters  stay  with  the  7th. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

April  15,  1915. 

The  French  battery  opened  up  suddenly  while  I 
was  on  guard  12  to  2  last  night,  and  poured  in  about 
sixty  shells  behind  the  German  lines,  on  the  ravitaille- 
ment,  perhaps.  The  echo  and  the  shells  travelling 
overhead  sounded  like  a  train  moving  away  swiftly 
in  the  Hudson  tube.  The  Germans  finally,  like  a 
sleeping  man  waking  and  saying:  "O  Hell,  I  suppose 
I  must,"  sent  a  long  shell  in  answer.  This  afternoon, 
however,  a  battery  opened  up  from  a  new  direction 
and  fired  random  shots  at  various  points  in  our  line. 
A  poor  chap  in  the  First  Section  was  killed,  another 
couple  wounded,  quite  far  from  where  I  am. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

May  10,  1915. 

Dear  Papa:  The  day  has  passed  uneventfully 
enough.  Everybody  shook  hands  with  me  all  around 
as  though  I  had  been  off  for  a  month.  I  felt  quite  the 
most  popular  man  in  all  France!  My  dear  "cabbo," 
Prosper  Bianchi,  a  delightful,  smiling  Italian  Swiss, 
who  is  ideally  sympathetic,  was  so  touched  with  the 
thought  that  you  might  go  home  without  a  souvenir 
of  the  war,  that  he  wants  you  to  have  the  little  bomb 


io4         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

which  he  got  in  the  trenches  of  Dompierre.  It  has 
never  gone  off.  He  stole  it  and  we  took  out  all  the 
explosives,  so  don't  be  afraid.  I  have  never  coveted 
anything  so  much  in  my  life,  and  doubtless  would 
have  swiped  it  from  him  if  any  occasion  had  offered. 
Bianchi  thinks  he  will  get  another,  but  to  me  it  is  a 
rare  article.  Particularly  since  it  is  in  perfect  condi- 
tion and  did  fall  in  our  neighborhood.  For  about  a 
week  they  dropped  half  a  dozen  a  night.  With  the 
enclosed  mandate  you  should  have  no  trouble  in 
getting  it  at  the  given  address.  It  is  the  house  of  a 
relation  of  our  cook,  Trena.  Please  don't  give  it 
away  or  show  it  to  anybody  who  might  requisition  it 
for  the  military  authority,  and  if  you  take  it  to 
pieces  look  out  for  a  little  ball  like  a  shot,  or  a  ball 
bearing. 

Rheims,  southeast  of  Mondidier. 

May  ii. 

We  got  up  at  3 130  and  packed  everything.  No 
particular  rows.  I  stuffed  the  books  and  things  into 
a  St.  Goban  bag  and  put  it  on  the  caisson.  Un- 
fortunately it  came  near  the  wheel,  wore  through, 
and  all  the  books  fell  out.  A  little  Italian  leading  a 
sick  horse  behind,  picked  them  up  as  they  fell,  so 
most  of  them  are  saved.  A  pretty  walk  it  was.  We 
skirted  Mondidier  and  saw  the  sky  to  the  east  flecked 
with  the  white  puffs  of  French  shrapnel.  In  the  halt 
this  side  of  Mondidier,  the  aeroplanes  circled  round 
us  like  doves,  and  one  white  biplane  did  dips  and 
upside  down  slides. 

We  were  very  inhospitably  received  here.  Almost 
had  to  fight  our  way  to  a  dirty  barn-yard.  Water  is 
scarce,  but  now  the  cabarets  have  opened  and  wine  can 
be  had.  We  are  leaving  this  evening  for  Bas,  the 
rumor  has  it,  and  we  are  even  prepared  to  sleep  in 
the  trenches. 


THE  LEGION  105 

Trenches  near  Bas, 

May  12,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  Toward  evening  we  left  the  little  town 
where  I  posted  the  letter  to  you,  and  coming  to  the 
next  village  found  it  full  of  troops:  it  is  their  places 
that  we  are  taking.  A  long  walk  through  a  dark 
wood,  taking  the  pieces  on  our  shoulders  at  the  end, 
and  a  mile  of  boyaux  to  our  position.  Very  clean  and 
well-arranged  the  Tirailleurs  left  it.  We  had  hoped 
on  seeing  a  few  exploding  shells  that  it  might  be  an 
interesting  section,  but  all  the  troops  we  asked  said 
they  lived  in  comfort  and  ease.  German  trenches 
from  400  to  900  metres  away.  One  fellow  of  the 
active  said  his  regiment,  which  had  been  here  for 
six  months,  had  lost  but  twelve  men;  while  our 
Arab  guides  told  me  in  fifty-four  days  here  they  had 
lost  but  two.  Amusing  characters  these  fellows  the 
guides;  give  orders  half  in  French,  half  in  native,  and, 
for  convenience,  the  men  have  numbers.  "  Ras- 
semblez-vous.  Ou  est-il  cinquante  trois?  Colly  colly 

!"    Well,  this  is  so  dead  everyone  walks  about 

behind  the  trenches  in  daylight.  They  would  do  it 
before  the  trenches;  but  for  the  interminable  tangles 
of  barbed  wire  and  defense  de  tirer.  I  presume  the 
Germans  have  the  same.  There  is  a  chateau  and 
chapel  in  ruins.  Here  comes  the  soupe.  Please  send 
me  my  compass  and  be  on  the  lookout  for  a  con- 
venient wrist-watch,  I  lost  mine  in  Frise.  I  am  very 
thankful  for  the  books.  Much  love  to  Papa  and 
Aunt  Beatrice. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

May  14,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  Well,  yesterday  afternoon  when  we 
were  enjoying  the  quietude  of  these  almost  unreal 
trenches  a  put — put — crik-crik — crrrrrrr  with  harsh 


io6         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

accompaniment  of  cannon,  and  a  lively  fusillade 
broke  upon  our  left.  Our  batteries  thundered  and 
the  Germans  returned  by  sending  a  few  shrapnel 
north  of  us.  We  hustled  round  and  got  in  position. 
It  appeared  the  French  were  anxious  to  know  whether 
the  Germans  still  had  their  artillery  opposite.  The 
companies  had  received  the  news  beforehand  and 
were  prepared :  a  few  men  at  the  creneaux  and  the  rest 
in  the  abris.  The  Commandant  ordered  everyone 
out  of  the  boyaux:  one  killed  and  two  wounded.  After 
twenty  minutes  the  shooting  lessened  and  we  turned 
to  other  things.  I  to  reading  Lamb  whom  I  found 
tedious  till  I  hit  the  Dissertation  on  Roast  Pig. 
Bianchi  to  continuing  the  elaborate  process  of  shav- 
ing, so  abruptly  cut  short. 

The  Company  went  out  before  the  trenches  again 
last  night  a  little  before  dark  and  chopped  away  amid 
the  beets.  Three  Germans  came  across  the  road 
to  see  what  was  up;  but  one  tripped  and  attracted 
attention,  whereupon  both  sides  ran  away,  our  men 
being  quite  unarmed.  A  curious  effect  these  trenches 
give  when  seen  from  the  normal  ground-level  and 
not  six  feet  under.  Irregular  hummocks  of  turned 
earth,  zigzag  moles  of  brown  soil,  and  in  between 
rows  of  beet  roots  with  green  grass  luxuriantly 
sprouting  in  spots.  The  whole  seems  to  have  no 
depth  at  all,  like  a  plan  of  a  maze  on  a  piece  of  paper. 
The  country  here  is  very  flat;  but  the  monotony  is 
relieved  by  woods,  clumps  of  trees,  patches  of  bushes, 
and  a  handsome  double  row  of.  trees  which  border  the 
high  road  running  between  the  lines.  Apple  trees 
are  now  in  bloom,  and  when  the  nights  are  not  too 
windy  birds  chirp  all  through  them.  I  have  not  yet, 
however,  heard  anything  to  resemble  my  conception 
of  a  nightingale's  voice.  Last  night,  after  the  dis- 
turbing influence  of  the  artillery,  both  sides  sent  up 
occasional  rockets.  Short  flickering  stars  which 


THE  LEGION  107 

rose,  bobbed  a  moment,  and  went  out,  showing  up 
only  the  black  silhouette  of  trees  and  feathery  clouds 
banked  upon  one  another.  Did  I  tell  you  that  in  my 
night  watches  I  have  taken  particular  interest  in  the 
stars? — like  the  ancient  shepherds, — and  have  made 
some  shrewd  guesses  as  to  the  zodiac  constellations. 
The  muleteers  with  the  soupe  arrive — also  to  take 
letters.  Usual  difficulties  arrive  over  the  distribution 
of  potatoes.  Calamity!  the  Sergeant's  wine  has  not 
arrived.  Now  discussion  as  to  whether  a  portion  of 
lard  goes  with  the  meat! 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

Sunday,  May  18,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  I  am  handsomely  installed  in  a  little 
niche  on  the  side  of  a  boyau  with  a  board  stretched 
across  to  write  upon  and  a  couple  of  sacks  meant  to 
put  earth  in,  but  now  filled  with  straw.  This  is  what 
the  unambitious  call  the  ideal  trench  life  in  the  truly 
ideal  trenches.  The  earth  is  the  same  brownish  clay, 
but  there  is  a  little  upper  soil,  hence  no  mud,  besides 
it  rarely  rains.  These  make  fine  shooting-holes;  and 
yet  really,  if  you  wish  to  shoot,  it  is  much  easier  to 
climb  out  where  you  can  get  a  good  view  above  the 
grass.  At  Frise  it  was  another  situation.  To  put 
your  head  above  was  very  dangerous,  every  pelletee 
de  terre  or  end  of  a  log  which  protruded  above  the 
talus  level  attracted  a  few  humming  balls.  Here  the 
fellows  arranging  their  handsome  creneaux,  carelessly 
uncover  themselves  to  the  waist  in  broad  noonday! 
And  you  can  hardly  see  the  German  trenches  even; 
with  field  glasses  they  look  magnificent.  I  have  not 
heard  a  bullet  whistle  overhead  these  three  days — 
since  the  little  artillery  practice.  I  volunteered  to 
do  the  corvee  d'eau  yesterday  with  a  tall  fellow, 
Samango,  former  student  in  Paris.  Really,  of  course, 


io8          LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

to  get  a  good  look  at  the  chateau.  It  is  a  paradise, 
beautiful  even  in  its  destruction;  and  radiates  a  kind 
of  melancholy  serenity.  It  stands,  a  pile  of  brick  and 
stone,  roofless,  save  one  wing,  with  broken  pediment 
and  windows  gaping  to  the  sky,  surrounded  by  a 
moat,  with  great  flat  lawns  on  either  side,  rows  of 
clipped  trees  and  endless  allies.  Barbed  wire  en- 
tanglements encumber  the  avenue:  shell  holes  cut 
the  turf  and  gravel;  everywhere  there  are  mangled 
trees.  The  chapel  must  have  been  very  fine.  Four 
or  five  stone  men  kneeling,  now  half  buried  in  the 
debris  of  the  fallen  vaults.  An  eighteenth  century 
confession-box  emerging  from  the  ruins.  But  I 
took  a  couple  of  photos  of  the  inside.  The  faqade 
was  the  most  interesting  part,  perhaps,  since  it  is  the 
least  damaged.  Over  the  low  door  a  Gothic  balcony 
surrounded  by  a  small  rose  window:  flamboyant 
tracing  like  the  rest  of  the  chapel.  Two  round 
towers  which  had  conical  roofs  flank  the  whole  and 
make  a  composition  with  good  proportions.  An 
original  statue  or  two  in  place  contrasts  with  the 
pile  of  rubbish, — against  one  side  of  which,  secreted 
in  a  hole,  is  a  telephone  operator  with  wires  leading  to 
the  chateau.  On  nearer  examination  of  the  latter  I 
found  it  very  plain,  long,  high  windows  on  the 
second  stories,  with  iron  grilles,  but  lots  of  them — 
and  dormers.  I  felt  it  lacked  unity  in  composition  a 
little.  Every  part  except  the  west  wing  open  to  the 
sky  from  the  ground  up.  Already  the  blackbirds 
had  taken  possession  of  the  upper  masonry  and 
chattered  incessantly.  In  the  area  of  the  Escalier 
d'Honneur  were  handsome  pieces  of  the  wrought  iron 
balcony;  very  Louis  XVI,  Petit  Trianon  in  feeling, 
and  on  the  wall  a  huge  genealogical  chart  in  which  the 
families  of  Belleforeire  and  Soyecourt  traced  them- 
selves back  to  Hugh.  Capet.  All  those  "court" 
names  are  Picardy;  it  is  full  of  Moncourt,  Merri- 


THE  LEGION  109 

court,  Maricourt,  etc.  The  present  owner  is  an 
Englishman.  It  was  he  who  restored  the  whole  a  few 
years  ago  (so  says  a  Latin  inscription),  and  I  hold 
him  responsible  for  the  plaster  plaques  in  the  chapel, 
and  a  hideous  green  iron  stage  in  the  distance  on  the 
south  lawn.  Still,  he  did  keep  up  the  bits  of  formal 
garden  and  the  trim  lines  of  trees. 

I  read  Lamb  and  have  attacked  The  Autocrat. 
One  has  to  eat  such  a  lot  to  get  a  little  nutrition  that 
even  a  pig's  time  is  not  worth  it.  Here  they're  at  it 
again — Bing — Bang — Bang!  about  ten  number  12 
shells  of  the  Germans.  Bing!  a  75  bangs  just  over 
me.  The  latter  are  much  more  alarming,  for  they 
travel  faster  than  sound,  so  one  does  not  hear  the 
depart  till  it  whistles  past.  Even  the  German  77  one 
has  time  to  jump;  and  these  are  the  bigger  caliber 
which  they  are  playing  today,  perhaps  even  on  the 
poor  chateau. 

We  are  going  in  repos  for  two  days  and  I  shall  try 
to  sketch  the  ruined  chapel,  etc. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

Before  I  forget  it,  I  just  saw  a  little  American  chap 
who  tells  me  of  the  petite  poste  where  he  watches  from 
time  to  time.  The  trenches  of  his  company  are  eight 
hundred  metres  from  the  enemy,  but  each  side  has 
long  boyaux  which  lead  out  to  little  advance  forts 
where  a  section  at  a  time  watch  for  half  a  day. 
Thirty  odd  metres  off  there  is  a  similar  German  post. 
Of  course  they  interchange  expressions  of  disgust, 
usually  at  sunrise.  I  have  noticed  this  before.  I 
suppose  it  is  because  at  that  hour  the  officers  of 
neither  side  are  yet  on  the  job.  One  Boche  spoke  up 
in  French,  "Don't  shoot!  What's  the  use?"  A 
Legionnaire  thereupon  fired  off  a  gun,  whereupon  the 
other  responded  "  Bande  de  salauds!"  Oh,  some  of 


no         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

these  Germans  speak  excellent  French  and  better 
Parisian  slang.  A  "type"  we  had  opposite  the 
Le  Genuillere  said  he  worked  eight  years  with  Felix 
Potin.  One  German  rather  got  the  Section's  goat,  as 
Dugan  expressed  it.  For  the  longest  time  he  up- 
braided them,  his  voice  coming  from  somewhere  near 
by.  They  searched  all  about  and  peeped  from  every 
corner  of  the  little  trench,  but  never  a  sign.  At  times 
he  would  call  back  to  his  friend  in  the  German  post, 
"Hans,"  who  roared  with  laughter.  Dugan  now 
suspects  that  he  must  have  been  inside  of  an  aban- 
doned tin  sprinkler.  A  couple  of  the  section  shot  at  a 
rabbit  and  one  went  out  to  look  for  the  beast.  He 
did  not  find  it  but  came  back  without  drawing  any 
fire. 

Ames  has  just  got  a  paper  and  says  Wilson  has 
delivered  a  sharp  note.  Let  us  hope  he  follows  it  up. 
One,  three,  seven  German  shells  passed  overhead, 
response  to  half  a  dozen  75*8.  Otherwise  the  flies 
are  the  only  noise-makers  here.  I  am  glad  to  see  that 
certain  sanitary  precautions  and  disinfectants  are 
being  applied  to  the  trenches.  I  have  feared  the  hot 
weather  on  this  subject  and  only  hope  strict  orders 
will  be  given.  Five  more  French  shells ! 

Repos  in  Bas, 

May  19,  1915. 

Dear  Papa:  Our  piece  (half  section)  came  down 
from  the  trenches  yesterday  for  repos.  We  walked 
through  the  great  park,  now  vested  in  tiny  young 
leaves.  The  vaulted  avenues  gave  one  somewhat  the 
same  underwater  sensation  we  have  on  the  Island. 
At  the  far  end  was  a  battery  of  artillery  with  the 
huts  and  shells  of  its  servants  mostly  underground. 
A  little  to  one  side  were  improvised  stables  against 
the  brick  wall  which  encloses  the  property,  and  more 
huts  of  tree  branches  and  evergreen  boughs.  The  vil- 


THE  LEGION 


in 


lage  of  Boub  Boul  they  call  it.  I  even  saw  a  wigwam- 
shaped  structure  marked  "  Rendez  vous  des  cockers." 
It  has  been  raining  or  clouded  the  last  four  days. 
Our  "ideal"  trenches  have  become  mud  bogs  in 
spite  of  ingenious  holes  to  draw  off  the  water.  But 
the  woods  are  wonderful.  I  went  out  there  on  a 
corvee  de  bois  this  afternoon  (enclosed  a  lily-of-the- 
valley  I  picked).  The  chateau  I  spoke  of  I  hear  had 
at  least  5000  shells  emptied  into  it.  Imagine  what  a 
stupid  waste  of  ammunition ! 
Off  for  the  post. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

May  21,  1915. 

Dear  Papa:  We  (the  piece)  are  going  up  to  the 
trenches  for  six  days  after  our  three  days  repos.  We 
hear  from  our  friends  the  German  and  Austrian 
Poles  etc.,  who  were  sent  away  from  us,  that  they 
afterwards  joined  the  zme  de  Marche,  and  that  the 
latter  has  been  north  of  Arras  and  has  suffered  very 
much.  One  company  (250)  is  reduced  to  43.  Des- 
sauer,  I  may  have  spoken  of,  was  wounded  there. 
Here  the  days  pass  quietly.  The  Germans  send 
three  or  four  shells  in  search  of  the  French  batteries 
hidden  in  the  woods.  Near  us  in  the  trenches  there 
is  one  spot  where  the  German  775  send  four  shells 
every  afternoon,  never  more  nor  less  than  four.  At 
the  fourth  explosion  half  a  dozen  fellows  jump  out 
of  the  trench  and  scramble  in  the  turned  up  ground 
for  the  fusees.  You  may  have  noticed  in  the  com- 
munique a  week  ago  that  there  was  an  attack  at 
Frise  which  was  repulsed.  One  German  was  taken 
prisoner.  When  questioned  why  they  had  never  at- 
tacked all  winter  he  answered  that  they  knew  the 
Legion  was  opposite  them,  and  though  the  latter 
appeared  not  to  be  very  good  shots,  their  fame  at 


ii2         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

the  bayonet  was  such  that  the  Germans  feared  a 
hand-to-hand  conflict. 

Your  loving 

VICTOR. 

May  23,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  I  wrote  a  good  letter  to  MacVeagh 
yesterday  afternoon  in  a  coffin-like  hole  I  made  for 
myself  back  of  the  cabin  in  the  beet  roots.  This 
morning,  in  fact  most  of  the  day,  Ames  and  I  have 
shoveled  and  picked  to  cave  out  for  ourselves  a 
"bureau."  Two  seats  facing  each  other  with  a  small 
door  shoved  into  the  earth  horizontally  to  form  a 
writing  desk.  It  is  the  first  time  we  have  a  really 
civilized  place  to  write  in.  I  never  realized  till  this 
minute  how  much  easier  it  is  than  forever  balancing 
a  book  or  board  on  one's  knees.  Did  I  tell  you  that 
the  2me  de  Marche  has  suffered  heavily  at  Arras? 
Recurrent  rumor  has  it  that  there  are  but  180  effect- 
ives left.  Meanwhile  we  here  are  as  quiet  as  we 
would  be  at  Barry  town.  Once  every  half-hour, 
usually  less  often,  a  single  rifle  report.  Not  even  the 
shells.  There  is,  in  fact,  a  general  order  not  to  shoot, 
—to  make  believe  that  the  trenches  have  been  evac- 
uated. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

May  25,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  Ames  has  become  so  sad  and  depressed 
lately  that,  to  cheer  him  up,  I  have  been  giving  him 
English  lessons.  I  find  that  I  benefit  by  the  instruc- 
tion nearly  as  much  as  he,  not  to  speak  of  the  pleasure 
of  teaching  an  intelligent  mind.  He  seems  to  grasp 
the  grammar  very  readily.  We  have  not  been  doing 
it  long  enough  to  see  how  much  he  retains.  Yester- 


THE  LEGION  113 

day  a  man  of  the  92nd  shot  a  Boche  out  of  a  tree: 
towards  evening  a  couple  went  out  and  brought  him 
in.  He  was  shot  through  the  shoulder.  A  young 
fellow,  without  malice.  He  gave  his  revolver  to  the 
fellow  who  pulled  him  down;  said  he  came  from 
Hamburg  but  had  not  heard  from  home  for  three 
months.  He  wore  very  used  corduroys  and  a  vest, — 
no  hat.  I  talked  to  a  couple  of  fellows  who  had 
talked  to  him.  Yes,  he  knew  considerable  French. 
He  said,  that  "of  course  Italy's  declaration  of  war 
was  a  huge  lie  since  the  latter  was  siding  with  Ger- 
many and  going  to  take  up  arms  for  that  cause." 
Later:  I  have  been  down  the  line  to  see  an  American 
who,  it  was  rumored,  was  formerly  in  the  2me  de 
Marche.  A  heavyset  man  he  was,  over  thirty,  and 
was  wounded  by  a  shrapnel  in  the  foot.  Born  in 
Maine,  living  in  Richmond.  He  had  thrown  up  a 
job  on  the  "Old  Dominion"  line,  James  river,  to 
come  over.  He  said  the  French  soldiers  at  the 
hospital  where  he  was  at  Beauvais  were  much  nicer 
than  the  Legion.  "Why,  this  is  a  regular  menagerie," 
he  added.  (I  seem  to  have  dropped  into  the  reporter 
interview  style.)  Still  he  had  no  grudge  against  the 
Regiment.  He  told  me  some  of  the  happenings  in 
section  D  which  I  was  not  acquainted  with.  When 
they  first  came  up  in  December,  those  who  had  a 
moment  carved  out  berths  in  the  side  of  the  trenches. 
Well,  of  course,  after  a  couple  of  heavy  rains  the 
whole  wet  soil  would  fall  in.  Woe  to  the  inhabitant! 
The  Persian  Prince  (son  of  the  minister)  was  thus 
suffocated.  His  copans  began  digging  him  out  by  the 
feet  and  it  took  forty-five  minutes.  It  appears  there 
were  several  other  cases  afterwards;  but  the  fellows 
learned  their  lesson  and  after  that  began  at  the  head. 
The  American  himself  was  partially  buried.  Fahns- 
worth  has  been  talking  to  me  about  Australian 
bush,  horse-breaking,  sheep-herding,  etc.  A  Simula- 


ii4         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

ere  attaque  last  night  from  Germans.    All  over  in  ten 
minutes. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

June  2,  1915. 

Dear  Conrad  and  Chanter:  No:  the  stamp  on  the 
envelope  does  not  mean  I  have  changed  my  company. 
I  suppose  you  look  upon  me  as  fighting  morning  and 
evening  with  the  tenacious  German  Infantry, — dodg- 
ing great  armor-plated  shells,  while  a  constant  purr 
and  hiss  of  German  bullets  sounds  a  few  inches  above 
my  head.  Well,  it  is  nothing  of  the  sort  now.  We 
occupy  one  of  those  secteurs  in  a  plain,  where  the 
German  trenches  are  nearly  half  a  mile  off  and  both 
the  enemy  and  ourselves  are  anxious  to  be  let  alone 
as  much  as  possible.  We  live  in  the  usual  labyrinth 
of  boyaux  and  trenches  with  what  you  might  call  the 
trench  emblem, — the  eternal  beet  root, — now  sprout- 
ing tall  on  their  second  year's  growth.  In  the  very 
early  morning  sometimes  one  hears  the  distant 
crack — sput!  of  a  rifle  or  the  low  p-uzz  of  an  already 
spent  bullet  coming  by;  but,  except  for  an  occasional 
demonstration  of  German  artillery  and  once  or  twice 
a  week  a  little  shooting  of  shrapnel  at  a  passing 
aeroplane,  the  only  sounds  are  men's  and  birds' 
voices.  At  night  we  each  mount  guard  for  two 
hours, — that  is,  stand  about  in  the  neighborhood  of 
the  piece  (machine  gun).  Sometime  between  5:30 
and  7  the  jus  (coffee)  arrives.  This  is  the  occasion  of 
waking  the  sergeant  who  suggests  that  we  sweep 
up  a  little  round  the  piece,  and  donner  un  coup  de 
balayage  au  boyau.  The  water  should  have  been 
brought  on  the  previous  evening  in  a  large  demijohn. 
If  so  inclined,  one  washes  superficially,  or  even 
shaves.  "  Apres  avoir  casse  la  croute, "  a  slice  of  bread, 
with  butter  if  we  have  any,  and  I  indulge  in  scrambled 


THE  LEGION  115 

eggs,  when  I  have  them.  Sometime  between  9 :3O  and 
ii  two  muleteers  arrive  with  the  soupe,  consisting 
of  the  wine  (pinar),  boiled  beef  (bidoche),  and  a 
greasy  warm  liquid,  usually  containing  disintegrated 
boiled  potatoes,  the  soup  proper  and  the  bread. 
Sometimes  we  have  canned  meat  (singe)  and,  once 
in  a  while,  macaroni  (nouilles).  Another  superficial 
sweep,  then  a  relapse  till  sometime  after  five  o'clock, 
when  another  two  muleteers  bring  the  soupe — (only 
vegetables  and  meat  this  time),  same  as  before  in 
appearance  and  taste.  The  events  of  the  day  are  the 
arrival  of  letters  and  the  newspapers.  A  corvee  d'eau 
is  sent  off, — two  men  with  the  "bon  bon"  strung 
between  them  on  a  stick,  to  the  village.  At  night  the 
Companies  send  out  patrouilles  of  8  to  15  men, — 
bayonettes  on  their  guns,  a  few  cartridges  in  their 
pockets,  but  no  cartouchiere  or  cintinor.  They  crawl 
about  in  the  beets  and  clover  for  a  couple  of  hours  and 
return.  There  used  to  be  a  certain  amount  of  mys- 
tery about  these  patrols;  but  since  they  have  never 
yet  met  a  German  patrol  and  the  leaders  are  not 
endued  with  that  reckless  courage  necessary  to 
enter  the  German  trenches  and  bring  a  man  or  two 
back,  interest  is  slackening.  When  it  is  dark  or  the 
moon  overcast  both  sides  send  up  rockets  from  time 
to  time  which  twinkle  and  bob  in  the  distance,  like 
unnatural  stars.  As  you  can  imagine,  we  are  more  or 
less  restrained  to  live  in  the  compass  of  a  few  yards, 
see  the  same  people,  hear  the  same  remarks,  do  the 
same  jobs  day  after  day.  What  the  French  call  the 
caffard  sets  in.  It  seems  too  much  trouble  to  do 
more  than  the  barest  necessities.  I  feel  that  this  is  a 
most  excellent  apprenticeship  for  the  job  of  tending  a 
light-house  or  light-ship.  At  first  when  the  place  is 
new,  the  work  is  interesting,  the  events  (storms,  etc.) 
are  exciting;  then  one  loses  more  and  more  the  out- 
side point  of  view.  The  fine  sunsets  and  sunrises  get 


n6         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

monotonous,  the  people  one  thought  picturesque  and 
amusing  at  first  sight,  lose  their  interest,  and  you 
have  recourse  to  books,  magazines  and  newspapers. 
Of  course  here  I  do  a  little  more.  Give  English  les- 
sons, for  instance. 

I'll  get  this  off  and  write  another  letter. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

June  2,  1915. 

Dear  Papa:  Thank  you  ever  so  much  for  the  letter 
describing  in  detail  all  the  anti-gas  inventions  as  yet 
devised.  I  am  greatly  impressed  by  this  expression  of 
paternal  affection.  Of  course  I  carry  in  the  back  of 
my  head  the  belief  that  this  regiment  will  never  be  in 
danger  from  the  deadly  clouds.  We  had  to  leave  the 
Frise  section  for  lack  of  men  to  hold  it,  and  now  our 
two  battalions  together  are  reduced  to  1200  men 
while  a  regiment  should  have  4  or  5  of  1000  each.  I 
have  been  taking  enormous  interest  in  the  English 
changes  in  government.  Is  it  not  the  first  coalition 
cabinet  since  those  shabby  failures  at  the  end  of  the 
1 8th  century?  The  only  sinister  note  I  have  noticed 
in  the  whole  procedure  is  Redmond's  refusal  to  join 
the  cabinet.  The  English  papers  are  awfully  serious; 
no  rosy  war  pictures.  I  should  think  that  England 
ought  to  put  itself  under  martial  law  as  France  has 
done,  if  she  really  wants  to  get  down  to  business. 
Is  that  labor  leader,  Henderson,  a  stiff-necked  bigot, 
or  will  he  add  strength  and  not  friction  to  the  minis- 
try? 

What  is  the  betting  on  the  U.  S.  action  now?  Even 
the  French  papers  say  that  Bryan  is  a  "  peace-at-any- 
price  man"  who  is  trying  for  the  Nobel  Prize.  The 
Mexican  question  must  be  getting  serious,  I  see  from 
a  note  in  the  French  paper. 

C ,  the  Portugee  West  African  ship-captain, 


THE  LEGION  117 

has  been  explaining  to  me  the  points  of  a  compass 
and  how  one  directs  a  ship  by  it.  It  is  often  very 
difficult  to  follow  since  he  drops  into  Portuguese  at 
times,  and  his  French  is  so  highly  colored  by  the 
former  language  that  it  is  only  a  practiced  ear  or  a 
Spaniard  that  can  catch  the  important  words.  Fine 
weather  here.  The  Germans  put  out  two  little 
green  flags  with  Arabic  characters  saying  that  this 
was  a  holy  war.  Our  patrouille  pulled  up  one  and 
brought  it  in.  A  bomb  was  attached,  but  luckily 
did  not  go  off. 
Off  with  the  mail. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

June  4,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  I  have  just  received  your  letter  enclos- 
ing Cowdin's.  My  wishes  are  stronger  and  stronger 
to  leave  this  regiment.  To  sit  here  week  after  week 
reading  essays  and  taking  a  mild  interest  in  the  war 
without  any  outlet  or  relief,  save  sales  corvees,  while 
the  wreck  of  this  regiment  gets  battered  to  and  fro 
by  fate,  and  the  members  have  nothing  better  to  do 
than  wager  when  it  will  sink,  is  nothing  more  or  less 
than  prison  life — interesting  as  an  experience,  but 
I  have  served  my  term. 

Enough!  Enough!  It  comes  down  to  this:  From 
the  outside  point  of  view  I  have  done  a  "noble"  act 
and  perhaps  gathered  honor  in  so  doing.  But  from 
the  practical  point  of  view  I  have  thrown  away  ten 
months  of  my  life,  neither  helped  the  French  nor 
injured  the  Germans.  I  have  counted  merely  as  a 
unit,  and  a  rather  troublesome  one,  perhaps,  because 
I  had  ideas  and  would  not  always  stay  put.  You, 
and  especially  Papa,  don't  seem  to  realize  that  the 
Franco-German-Front  is  like  a  chain  nailed  at  cer- 
tain points.  As  long  as  the  nails  remain  firmly 


ii8          LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

planted  the  chain  cannot  budge.  The  only  reason  for 
the  continuous  line  of  trenches  is  to  keep  the  oppo- 
nent from  making  maurauding  expeditions  with 
cavalry,  etc.  or  sending  large  forces  to  get  the  main 
troops  of  the  opponent  in  the  rear.  The  "dreadful" 
trenches,  where  we  were  all  winter,  could  just  as 
well  have  been  inhabited  by  women  and  children  for 
all  the  good  the  men  did.  A  lively  fusillade  to  answer 
the  enemy  two  or  three  times  a  month.  The  noise 
might  even  have  been  marvellously  imitated  by 
bunches  of  fire-crackers.  As  for  these  trenches 
where  we  are  now:  a  sentinel  every  half  mile,  with  a 
regiment  playing  dominoes  in  the  village  to  come  up 
through  the  wood  in  case  of  general  attack,  com- 
municated with  by  telephone,  would  serve  the  pur- 
pose equally  well.  The  Government  has  the  troops, 
so  it  puts  them  at  the  Front  and  keeps  them  busy 
digging  second  and  third  line  trenches  for  want  of  a 
better  occupation.  The  German  artillery  would 
open  up  on  the  Companies  if  they  took  to  manoeu- 
vring practice.  That  furious  bombardment  of  T— 
was  due  to  an  aeroplane  having  spotted  a  company  at 
work  in  the  streets  the  preceding  morning.  As  you 
see  in  the  papers,  daily  artillery  is  what  counts  in 
this  war — ammunitions  galore.  Meanwhile  we  sit 
here  wearing  down  the  enemies'  morale.  But  egotis- 
tically speaking,  why  should  I  stay  here  when  a 
Hooligan  out  of  Paris  could  fill  my  place  to  better 
advantage?  Aside  from  the  fact  that  the  Captain 
prides  himself  on  having  Ames  and  myself,  like  rare 
birds,  to  boast  of  to  his  fellow  officers:  "American 
millionaires!  Came  here  for  the  war!  Odd,  ain't 
it!",  he  has  often  said  that  he  deplored  the  fact 
that  we  were  not  professional  terrassiers  (ditchers.) 
To  continue:  What  have  I  got  out  of  this  life,  and 
what  more  shall  I  get?  Lots  of  amusing  experiences, 
some  sad  ones,  seeing  the  making  of  the  war  in  the 


THE  LEGION  119 

remote  parts  of  the  Front,  meeting  all  manner  of 
men  on  the  same  level, — a  few  hardships  at  the 
beginning,  but  unfortunately  none  now — that  would 
make  things  interesting.  And  the  putting  up  with  a 
great  deal  of  damn  foolery,  which  luckily  slides  off 
my  back.  Oh  yes,  I  have  learned  more  worldly 
wisdom: — when  it  pays  to  lie,  the  necessity  of  steal- 
ing small  indispensables,  and  what  a  world  one  can  do 
with  a  "culot  monstre,"  or  as  we  say  in  America 
"What  a  lot  you  can  get  away  with  by  sheer  cheek." 
But  as  for  my  personal  habits,  I  am  every  bit,  nay, 
twice  as  untidy,  and  as  for  laziness — why,  my  former 
self  was  a  model  of  untiring  zeal!  I  hardly  think  I 
am  a  strong  enough  character  not  to  be  influenced  by 
my  environment,  where  everyone's  only  aim  is  to  do 
as  little  and  get  out  of  as  much  as  possible.  As  for 
developing  my  character  and  forces,  I  have  long  since 
given  up  any  forlorn  hopes  that  whispered  the  pos- 
sibility of  better  things.  I  shall  merely  become  more 
slothful,  less  efficient,  and  less  fit  to  do  work  after- 
wards. 

As  for  Aviation,  I  was  too  irresolute  and  inarticu- 
late at  Amiens  to  give  free  vent  to  my  feelings,  and 
with  the  bunting  that  popular  heroes  are  made  of  lying 
so  thick,  I  did  not  like  to  show  my  true  self.  I  have 
read  Cowdin's  letter;  but  it  is  perfectly  obvious  that  I 
am  not  wanted  and  have  been  foisted  on  them  by 
Uncle  Willy  and  Papa.  This  is  Prince's  and  Cowdin's 
show,  they  got  it  up.  It  was  not  for  Americans  in 
general.  If  I  had  been  hauled  out  of  the  Legion  in 
February  I  might  have  been  a  charter  member  of  the 
Club,  but  I  would  not  think  of  joining  now.  He  is  a 
most  polite  intelligent  fellow,  Cowdin,  I  can  see,  and 
is  having  the  time  of  his  life.  It's  not  as  dangerous 
as  they  say.  I  have  seen  them  nearly  every  bright 
day  when  often  fifty  shells  leave  white  balls  in  the 
sky,  and  not  yet  have  I  seen  one  disabled.  What 


120         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

shall  I  do  when  I  get  back  in  the  "civil?"  Well,  I 
have  not  yet  given  up  aeroplaning,  and  on  other  lines 
there  are  thousands  of  interesting  things  to  do,  and 
you  forget  that  if  ever  I  get  homesick  for  this  life 
again  (may  the  devil  damn  me  black!)  I  can  always 
re-engage. 

Well,  if  I  could  get  up  interest  enough  to  write  a 
letter  like  this  every  morning  I  should  not  feel  so 
unhappy,  but  it  takes  favorable  circumstances  to  be 
undisturbed  (there  is  no  real  privacy,  of  course), 
and  I  have  pretty  well  drained  all  my  spigots  of 
over-flowing  ideas,  besides  my  habitual  inertness  is 
not  easily  overcome.  We  go  down  this  afternoon. 
I  am  not  looking  forward  to  it  particularly,  though 
since  most  of  the  muleteers  have  gone,  I  hear  that  we 
shall  exercise  the  animals.  You  see  it  has  taken  3 
weeks  of  hopeful  waiting  and  then  a  set-back  to 
bring  my  fluctuating  ideas  into  tangible  form.  But 
they  were  born  in  March. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

June  12,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  Well,  the  unexpected  always  happens 
by  experience.  It  is  not  the  Roches,  but  the  weather 
which  gives  us  the  trouble.  This  time  it  was  a  shower 
shortly  after  dark  night  before  last.  Just  a  summer 
thunder  storm,  only  it  lasted  an  hour  and  a  half  to 
two  hours,  and  was  a  tropical  deluge.  The  effect  on 
our  trenches,  which,  you  will  remember,  are  in  ab- 
solutely level  plain,  was  most  astonishing  and  hor- 
rible. First,  little  by  little  all  our  neatly  carved 
cubby-holes,  shelves,  and  benches,  melted  away. 
The  steeper  sides  of  the  boyaux  came  sliding,  and  then 
the  water  began  to  rise  in  the  bottom  of  the  trenches. 
If  you  consider  that  every  shelter,  or  sleeping  bur- 
row, is  like  a  subway  entrance  along  the  side  of  the 


THE  LEGION  121 

boyaux  you  can  realize  the  seriousness  of  the  danger. 
In  the  dark,  half-naked,  we  pushed  and  pulled  the 
sticky,  liquid  mud,  pulled  down  sacks,  creneaux, 
logs,  anything  to  make  a  barrier.  We  succeeded 
finally  and  I  waded  up  to  my  thighs  to  see  how  the 
others  had  fared.  The  other  place  was  a  well,  full, 
up  to  the  top  of  the  stairs.  The  Lieutenant  I  found 
lying  on  his  bed,  a  high  one  set  in  the  wall,  while 
chairs  and  tables  floated  among  empty  bottles  and 
bits  of  wood.  He  was  quite  dry,  he  said.  But  a 
quarter  of  an  hour  after,  a  second  freshet  raised  the 
water  level  above  the  bed.  In  that  region,  ours,  and 
one  other,  were  the  only  cabins  saved.  The  machines, 
being  on  raised  stands,  did  not  suffer,  and  we  had 
put  the  boxes  of  cartridges  out  of  danger. 

The  next  morning  we  began  damming  off  the 
trenches  at  intervals,  and  emptying  one  portion  at  a 
time.  Many  had  suffered  worse  than  we.  The  First 
Section  spent  most  of  the  night  reinforcing  dykes  on 
three  sides  to  keep  the  water  from  swamping  their 
piece  and  all.  And  some  of  the  companies  had  all 
their  belongings,  sacks,  etc.,  drenched.  I  don't  be- 
lieve there  were  ten  rifles  in  our  Section  that  would 
have  functioned  properly.  All  day  we  worked  with 
bucket  chains  to  get  the  water  out,  and  then  the 
soft  mud,  six  inches  deep  on  the  bottom.  Our  com- 
panions-in-woe  across  the  wire  entanglements  must 
have  suffered  equally,  for  we  really  did  see  them 
scrambling  about  on  the  horizon.  Somebody  or- 
ganized a  feu  de  salve  and  brought  down  three  or 
four,  as  the  story  runs.  As  was  to  be  expected  they 
retaliated  and  killed  a  fellow  who  was  showing  him- 
self near  us.  It  remained  overcast  all  day  so  nothing 
dried.  I  could  not  take  good  photographs.  Of  course 
bare  feet  and  trousers  rolled  up  to  the  last  notch 
were  the  general  equipment.  Luckily  there  was  a 
hedge  behind  which  one  could  walk  instead  of  taking 


122         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

the  boyaux;  for  those  leading  out  were,  in  places, 
nearly  full. 

There  are  several  cases  on  record,  in  the  Company 
beside  us,  of  fellows  having  swum  with  the  morning 
coffee  to  reach  their  squad  yesterday.  The  Lieuten- 
ant behaved  wonderfully  tactfully  and  democrat- 
ically, living  with  us  and  even  falling-to  with  the 
buckets.  He  telephoned  to  the  Captain  a  propos  of 
something  yesterday  afternoon.  The  Captain  hoped 
things  were  better  now  and  advised  him  to  make  a 
fire  in  his  abri!  The  stove  had  been  two  feet  under 
water  for  the  past  18  hours.  The  Company  Com- 
mandants acted  with  vigor  and  intelligence  having 
been  drowned  out  with  their  men, — and  spent  the 
entire  night  wading  aimlessly  about  in  dripping 
clothes.  Half  sections  from  the  other  Battalion, 
came  up  in  spotless  tenue  and  were  set  to  shoveling 
mud.  Also  a  couple  of  pumps  have  been  installed. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

I  have  lost  all  my  pipes  in  the  scramble.  A  big 
straight  one  would  be  very  gratefully  received. 

June  19,  1915. 

Dear  Uncle  Willy:  I  enclose  some  of  the  photos  I 
have  taken  lately.  I  am  sorry  that  they  should  be  so 
uninteresting,  but  the  confounded  Germans  have 
taken  to  using  smokeless  powder  in  their  shells,  at 
least  the  ones  we  get.  So,  though  they  pepper  us 
harmlessly  about  once  or  twice  a  week  I  can  get  no 
snaps.  We  are  now  trying  to  take  the  cabin  interiors 
by  flash  light.  At  first  we  used  powder  from  car- 
tridges, but  last  evening  we  found  an  unused  rocket 
between  the  trenches  and  now  hope  for  excellent 
results.  You  would  not  believe  it, — I  still  have 
nearly  everything  you  gave  me  before  leaving. 
Both  sweaters,  rather  tattered  but  in  constant  serv- 


THE  LEGION  123 

ice, — one  has  the  famous  bullet  hole  through  it. 
The  automatic  looking  very  fit.  The  sleeping  bag 
was  lost  at  Cailleaux  but  I  had  another  given  to  me 
by  a  friend.  The  camera,  of  course,  well  to  the  front, 
and  the  shoes  the  family  admired  so  much  still  as 
good  as  new.  (The  very  handsome  high  pair  Mr. 
Jaccaci  gave  me,  are  showing  signs  of  wear  sadly,  in 
spite  of  repairs).  Do  you  know  about  our  new 
Lieutenant,  i.  e.  in  the  mitrailleuse?  A  tall  light- 
haired  Zcheck.  His  brother's  regiment  was  sent 
down  to  Serbia  at  the  beginning  of  the  war  and  was 
deliberately  wiped  out  by  Austrian  artillery.  So 
he  joined  the  French.  The  ring-making  craze  is  all 
the  rage,  I  don't  think  there  is  a  man  here  without 
several.  A  slight  bombardment  is  greeted  with 
pleasure  because  of  its  deposit  of  aluminum  pieces 
which  are  promptly  melted  down  into  tubes  and 
sawed  off  into  rings.  There  are  rumors  of  going  to 
repos.  Meanwhile  we  are  always  in  the  same  place. 
Your  affectionate  nephew, 

VICTOR. 
Enclosed  four  photographs.    Many  more  coming. 

June  22,  1915. 

Dear  Papa:  Thank  you  very  much  for  the  Swiss 
newspaper.  That  article  of  Rolland  is  the  most 
interesting  one  I  have  seen  in  some  time.  Are  they 
not  reprinting  it  in  some  Paris  paper?  If  so,  could 
I  not  see  one  or  two  if  you  run  across  them?  The 
last  very  handsome  Marquand  respirator  arrived. 
My  companions  liken  me  to  the  Englishman  who 
received  twenty-seven  masks  the  day  after  the  Ger- 
mans were  known  to  use  gas.  Nothing  has  happened 
here  at  all.  We  do  our  six  days  in  the  trenches  and 
three  days  at  repos  like  clock-work  and  count  time 
by  them  rather  than  by  the  days  of  the  week.  There 
are  rumors  of  great  conflicts  to  the  north,  displace- 


i24         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

ment  of  troops,  etc.,  but  you  know  how  baseless  most 
of  our  "inside  information"  is.  Tell  Alee  I  have  just 
finished  a  ten  page  letter  to  Mme.  Kohn.  I  fitted  up 
my  "bureau"  so  that  my  light  would  not  show,  and 
sat  up  half  the  night.  Bianchi  has  just  made  me  an 
ink-stand  out  of  a  105  fusee.  He  has  got  together  the 
files,  chisels  and  vises  necessary  and  turns  them  out 
almost  as  fast  as  people  bring  him  the  fusees.  I  am 
trying  to  get  a  seal  ring  made,  but  the  jewelers 
claim  they  cannot  work  well  without  their  instru- 
ments. The  trades  sometimes  strike  one  oddly  here, 
as  the  negro  who  refused  to  cook  for  his  company 
because  it  would  spoil  his  metier:  he  was  a  real  chef. 
And  the  tailor  who  examined  Ames,  when  he  first 
came,  and  ejaculated  that  the  suit  must  have  cost  at 
least  200  francs.  Just  so  the  other  day  I  asked  a 
fellow  who  said  he  had  studied  dentistry,  to  look  at 
my  mouth.  (I'm  worried  over  three  holes  I  have 
found).  " Laisse  voir!  oh,  laisse  voir!  Quelle  beau 
travail!  Qa  vaut  au  mains  deux  mille  francs.  Au 
moins"  And  I  inwardly  thought  what  genuine 
pleasure  he  would  have  examining  at  leisure  my  skull 
if  he  found  it  rolling  round  the  field.  Incidentally 
he  is  a  Roumanian  and,  though  he  was  studying  with 
his  brother  in  New  York,  he  came  over  to  join.  I 
think  such  fellows  deserve  more  credit  than  if  they 
had  been  already  here. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

June  30,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  Just  a  line:  we  are  on  the  move.  Yes- 
terday noon  we  left  the  trenches  and  started  north. 
Evidently  there  have  been  orders  and  counter-orders, 
for  the  first  Battalion  spent  a  night  near  St.  Juste. 
Got  to  this  village  at  midnight  and  were  awakened 
by  the  fortieth  wending  through  with  drum  and 


THE  LEGION  125 

horn.  A  real  Regiment,  four  full  Battalions.  The 
summer  poilu  is  a  much  nicer  looking  man  than  the 
winter, — clean-shaved,  save  a  short  mustache,  and 
has  a  much  more  spick-and-span  appearance. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

Provisionally  in  the  2d  Line  Trenches, 

July  2,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  A  twilight  march  laden  down  with  full 
musettes  and  blankets  "en  bandeliere"  followed  by 
our  mules  and  guns  on  a  straight  highroad.  Flat 
country  with  little  groups  of  trees  and  villages 
silhouetted  on  the  horizon.  We  met  a  company  of 
Territorials  coming  back  from  hay-making,  each 
with  a  huge  rake  and  one  of  those  straight-handled, 
broad-bladed  scythes  which  are  only  associated  with 
Father  Time  and  other  antiquated  symbols.  A  long 
walk  in  wide  and  very  crooked  boyaux  with  the 
pieces;  and  here  we  met  "encadres"  with  reserve 
troops  which  have  been  here  since  they  drove  the 
Germans  out  in  October.  In  a  high  voice  the  little 
guide,  who  was  bringing  a  couple  of  cases  for  us, 
pointed  out,  "In  this  clump  of  trees  we  drove  them 
back  from  that  hedge,  the  3oyth  followed  them  up." 
And  it  was  so  sultry  and  dark  that  we,  new  arrivals, 
could  not  see  anything.  His  whole  intonation,  and 
almost  his  accent,  reminded  me  of  a  small  Irishman. 
Celtic  perhaps.  The  fellows  mounting  guard  talked 
another  incomprehensible  dialect.  I  was  rather 
surprised  to  find  myself  as  much  out  of  it  with  a 
French  Regiment  as  with  our  Legionary  companions. 
This  morning  I  found  one  of  them,  who  had  come 
from  the  depot  just  after  the  attack  in  October,  tell- 
ing my  copans  about  the  fusee  and  German  car- 
tridges. His  point  of  view  was  that  of  Perry  when 
he  mourned  the  extinction  of  lobsters  in  Maine. 


126         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

"Mon  pauvre  ami"  (this  seems  to  be  a  friendly 
expression  in  the  locality),  why,  when  I  first  came 
here  there  were  two  fusees  to  every  beet  root  and 
beautiful  unblemished  ones  all  of  aluminum.  As 
for  Boche  cartridges,  why,  the  trenches  were  full  of 
them,  for  the  scoundrels  were  well  stocked  and  did 
not  expect  to  be  driven  out.  Why,  I'll  wager  our 
regiment  alone  sent  home  three  wagon  loads  of 
porte-plumes, — mais  maintenant  une  balle  Boche  qa  se 
vend  a  quart  sous  piece.  There  are  fellows  here  who 
have  made  fifty  rings  each.  And  now  you  can  pick 
the  whole  field  over  and  never  a  sign!  The  salauds 
only  send  us  now  useless  things  in  brass. 

Julys,  1915- 

I  went  to  sleep  before  finishing  and  had  a  total 
relaxation  from  War,  etc.,  by — what  do  you  think? 
Reviewing  Harvard  Dental  School  requirements  and 
talking  over  exams,  and  board-and-lodging  with 
Ames,  who  thinks  he'll  take  up  that  profession  when 
he  gets  out.  A  little  cure  from  the  Tours  Seminary 
(now  a  brancardier)  came  round  and  showed  us  his 
"chapel," — an  altar  literally  bursting  with  flowers, 
wild  and  cultivated,  some  in  garlands  and  some  in 
empty  shells.  .  .  . 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

July  14,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  Twenty-four  hours  in  cattle  cars;  but 
rather  amusing  all  the  same.  Great  work  embarking 
the  horses  and  mules  in  the  pouring  rain  yesterday. 
This  goes  from  Belfort.  Very  pretty  scenery,  the 
last  few  miles  mountains  like  the  Camden  Hills.  We 
have  enough  to  eat  somehow.  One  man  got  left 
getting  wine,  but  has  caught  us  on  an  express.  We 
are  going  to  the  Swiss  frontier  en  repos.  A  few 
trenches  and  a  French  "sausage"  are  the  only  active 


THE  LEGION  127 

war  signs,  besides  old  soldiers  guarding  the  rails.    Oh 
yes,  one  corvee  with  shovels  and  picks. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

July  16,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  Well,  we  are  in  the  seventh  heaven  and 
the  full  expectation  of  really  getting  into  an  attack 
for  we  are  verse  into  the  famous  zme  de  Marche.  It 
was  this  regiment  which  attacked  at  Carency  and  the 
neighborhood  on  the  9th  of  May  and  withstood 
(the  three  divisions)  eleven  German  divisions  in 
the  contre-attack  the  i6th  of  June.  It  is  perhaps  the 
most  famous  regiment  in  the  French  forces  on  ac- 
count of  these  two  facts;  but,  of  course,  there  is 
nothing  left  of  it  to  speak  of — (4000  casualties,  the 
ninth  and  sixteenth  of  May,  cost).  They  are  a  few 
old  legionnaires,. and  the  rest  volunteers;  but  they  are 
soldiers,  and  the  officers  know  their  business  and  do 
not  haggle  over  matters  of  form  in  the  cantonment 
but  speak  to  us  straight.  "  We  have  to  do  this  and 
this  because  it  will  be  necessary  in  the  fight."  Every- 
thing not  essential  to  battle  will  not  be  insisted  upon. 

We  arrived  on  the  night  of  the  fourteenth  at 
Montbeliard  and  slept  in  the  old  castle  perched  over 
the  town,  now  a  barrack, — a  typical  German  schloss, 
with  round  towers,  storied  gables, — even  an  iron 
bear  coming  out  of  the  masonry  rocks  in  the  wall. 
Now  we  are  billeted  in  a  little  village  less  than  a 
dozen  miles  south  of  Belfort.  We  and  all  the  mi- 
trailleuse, together  with  the  Division  Moroccan,  i.  e. 
the  Turcos  and  Zouaves — what  is  left  of  them.  Our 
Tcek  Lieutenant  remains  to  command  our  sections. 
The  new  Captain  is  an  efficient  fellow  who  belongs 
to  the  active  and  has  served  two  Moroccan  cam- 
paigns. Likewise  the  other  Lieutenant.  The  orig- 
inal officers,  of  course,  met  their  fate  at  Arras. 


128         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

The  country  here  is  hilly,  woody  and  far  more 
beautiful  than  the  Picardy  country.  The  houses  and 
farms  are  high  and  of  stone  and  rubble, — round 
arches,  and  no  barn-yards.  And  the  population  is 
violently  patriotic.  Only  too  ready  to  help  the 
soldiers.  I  believe  they  would  deprive  themselves  of 
milk  and  eggs  to  serve  the  soldiers.  I  have  found 
Heredia  in  the  company  encamped  in  the  next  vil- 
lage, but  as  yet  have  not  had  a  good  talk  with  him. 
He  took  part  in  the  second  affair  at  Arras,  and  gave 
us  a  short,  disjointed  and  amusing  description  of  it. 
One  cannot  sit  down  here  in  a  cafe  but  the  fellow 
opposite  launches  into  horrible  detailed  descriptions, 
with  glaring  eyes  and  forced  gestures.  It  seems  to 
have  affected  many  of  them  as  the  colossal  catas- 
trophe of  their  lives.  The  cannonade  and  being  with 
the  dead  and  rotting  has  been  too  much  for  them. 
However  the  best  balanced  fellows,  like  Heredia,  are 
unaffected,  and  the  morale  of  the  regiment  is  very 
high  despite  their  losses. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

July  16,  1915. 

Dear  Papa:  I  am  writing  from  a  cafe  in  a  sizable 
town  into  which  we  have  sneaked  after  the  soup. 
Hericourt  it  is  called,  and  the  streets  are  swarming 
with  Zouaves  and  Turcos  who  are  perhaps  the  most 
picturesque  of  French  soldiers.  They  no  longer  have 
the  breezy  red  trousers;  but  they  retain  the  red  fez, 
which  is  worn  in  a  hundred  jaunty  fashions  over  a 
cropped  head.  The  rest  of  the  costume  consists  of  a 
short  jacket  and  bloomers,  both  of  khaki. 

In  our  little  village  are  only  the  Mitrailleuse  sec- 
tions, but  there  are  Zouaves  and  bronze  Turcos 
(or  Bicos  as  they  are  called),  squatting  against  the 
houses  whose  shingled  walls  are  tapestried  with 


THE  LEGION  129 

trained  pear  trees.  It  is  a  great  pleasure  to  see  this 
rolling  land  well-wooded,  and  the  yokes  of  white  and 
yellow  oxen  on  the  winding  road.  The  impressions 
of  the  different  units  of  the  3d  at  being  thrown  into 
the  2nd  Regiment  of  March  are  diverse.  We,  the 
Mitraille,  are  joyous, — good  chiefs,  fair  treatment, 
and  sure  fighting  before  us. 

July  18,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  Yesterday  we  marched  thirty  odd 
kilometres  up  into  the  foot-hills  of  Alsace:  we  shall 
cross  over  into  the  German  possessions  tomorrow, 
I  think.  Back  in  Picardy  I  was  beginning  to  think 
that  I  was  fed  up  with  the  country,  and  that  nature 
had  no  more  charms  for  me;  but  once  here  in  these 
hills  and  woods  with  quaint  cottages  and  running 
streams  I  have  new  interest.  Yes :  they  are  somewhat 
like  the  Catskills,  and  it  pours  and  then  shines  much 
the  same.  I  have  just  been  in  a  butcher  shop.  A 
rambling  stone  edifice, — part  house,  part  barn, — yet 
all  under  one  peak  roof.  Walking  through  a  passage 
by  the  wood  pile,  I  found  myself  in  a  very  dark,  low- 
timbered  room,  one  small  window  and  a  door  giving 
on  the  garden.  Full  half  the  ceiling  was  hung  with 
hams,  sausages,  bacons,  and  the  like;  while  in  the 
corner  next  the  stove  was  a  huge  square  chimney, 
open  to  the  sky,  fitted  with  rods  on  which  hung  rows 
of  sausages.  A  hearty-faced  man  with  a  black  soft 
hat  came  in,  looking,  with  his  stocky  build,  the  image 
of  the  figures  of  Teniers  and  his  period.  A  beefy 
woman  served  de  la  Surade  with  evident  pleasure; 
and  then,  at  his  suggestion,  I  was  shown  three  hand- 
some old  pieces  of  furniture, — a  chest  and  two  of 
those  high  combination  closets  and  bureaux.  All 
were  interesting.  There  was  also  a  little  spinning 
wheel  in  the  corner  which  she  still  used. 

As  for  our  future,  it  is,  we  are  convinced,  full  of 


i3o         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

glory  and  adventure.  Hindenburg  is  commanding 
in  Louvain,  and  Joffre  is  at  Belfort,  the  papers  say. 
All  the  Moroccan  division,  both  regiments  of  the 
Legion,  three  of  Zouaves  and  two  of  Turcos,  are  here. 
Fighting  in  the  woods  and  mountains  is  much  more 
picturesque  than  in  the  plains,  and  we  cannot  be 
cannonaded  with  heavy  artillery,  nor  will  it  be  the 
deadly  monotonous  trench  warfare. 

In  marching  through  the  villages  yesterday,  I  saw 
the  number  two  (2)  and  enquired  for  the  American 
section.  Finally  I  came  upon  it  and  found  Seeger. 
I  have  never  seen  him  in  such  good  health.  Why,  he 
hardly  looks  himself!  The  2me  Etr  anger  has  more 
Legionnaires  even  than  the  2me  de  Marche.  I  don't 
think  they  have  done  as  much  as  the  ^me  de  Marche, 
though  of  course  they  were  well  officered.  I  am 
going  to  look  him  up  again  when  I  have  finished  this 
letter.  He  is  in  the  other  end  of  the  same  village. 
He  seems  to  have  plenty  of  money,  and  to  be  content 
with  his  lot. 

Did  I  tell  you  I  found  Heredia?  He  is  really  in 
need  of  help  for  he  has  not  a  man  in  his  section  with 
whom  he  can  have  a  sympathetic  friendship.  The 
Corporal  is  an  old  legionary,  and  most  of  the  squad  are 
South  American  professional  pick-pockets  and  sneak- 
thieves,  whom  the  Paris  police  led  gently  to  the  Re- 
cruiting Office,  so  that  they  might  do  no  more  harm. 

Please  send  me  my  little  Bible  and  my  camera  and 
stuff  as  soon  as  possible.  Of  course  I  have  not  had  a 
letter  since  I  left  you  at  Paris,  nor  shall  I  for  some 
days  since  we  are  on  the  move.  I  still  look  forward 
to  the  aeroplane  corps;  but  I  rather  relish  seeing  a 
bit  of  fighting  first. 

I  doubt  if  I  see  you  before  you  sail. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

Seeger  sends  his  best  regards. 


THE  LEGION  131 

July  21,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  I  wonder  if  I  conveyed  to  you  how  well 
off  we  consider  ourselves?  Bianchi  summed  it  all 
up  by  saying  he  did  not  use  to  believe  in  God,  but 

since and  -  -  have  left  and  we  keep  the 

Lieutenant  and  acquire  such  a  Captain,  he  does,  sans 
blague.  I  shall  regret  it  sincerely  if  my  recall  comes 
now  before  we  have  had  an  attack.  The  regiment,  as 
I  told  you  before,  did  incredible  things  at  Arras;  and 
yesterday  it  all  turned  out  in  a  big  field  and  without 
too  much  blair  the  Colonel  decorated  our  Mitrailleuse 
Captain  and  six  or  eight  of  his  men,  besides  giving  the 
croix  de  guerre  to  two  of  the  original  section  for  having 
sustained  a  fierce  counter  attack,  thereby  holding 
valuable  ground.  Today  being  our  third  or  fourth 
day  only  in  the  company  (for  the  second  old  section 
of  the  ^me  de  Marche  have  been  put  in  with  the  third 
of  the  2nd)  we  arranged  a  target  on  a  cliff  and  did  a 
little  shooting  practice.  I  believe  we  shall  do  it  every 
other  day  or  so.  This  Captain  knows  his  job  and 
though  they  say  he  is  strict  he  leaves  us  alone  and 
we  have  great  liberty.  I  have  been  down  into  the 
town  and  dined  with  Seeger  and  a  Harvard  under- 
graduate called  King.  He  seems  rolling  in  luxuries, 
smokes  imported  cigarettes  and  refuses  to  make  a 
row  when  the  bill  is  three  times  what  it  should  be. 

I  now  predict  that  my  heavenly  prospects  are  just 
going  to  miss  each  other  by  hair-breadths — you  will 
sail  before  I  either  get  four  days  furlough  or  change 
to  aviator.  I  shall  be  transferred  to  the  Aviation  just 
before  this  company  goes  into  action  and  makes  a 
brilliant  attack.  And  the  war  will  end  just  before  I 
get  my  license  and  go  to  the  front. 

What  I  want  to  impress  upon  you  is  that  I  am  very 
happy  here  and  doing  intelligent  exercise  preparatory 
to  some  energetic  attack,  in  a  beautiful  valley  with 
contented,  interesting  companions.  But  there  seems 


i32         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

no  hope  of  my  getting  my  four  days  permission  be- 
fore you  go.    Love  to  Papa. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

July  26,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  Of  course  I  am  prepared  to  leap  with 
joy  when  my  transfer  does  come.  I  was  merely 
stating  my  feeling  at  being  in  a  real  regiment.  You 
must  think  me  very  sunken  in  social  morals  to  want 
to  jilt  what  you  have  crossed  the  ocean  for  and  have 
been  working  on  for  months.  The  Lieutenant  gave 
us  a  little  talk  the  other  day  on  various  prescribed 
subjects.  In  passing,  he  said  the  trouble  with  me  was 
that  I  had  too  much  sangfroid.  Perhaps  it's  true.  I 
don't  move  fast  enough  in  critical  junctures.  Yester- 
day, being  Sunday,  we  had  repos.  I  bored  myself  at 
mass;  but  I  found  Heredia  afterwards  and  arranged  a 
rendezvous  for  the  afternoon.  I  came  up  to  the  village 
in  the  valley  where  they  were,  and  met  Farnsworth, 
Sokovna  and  Heredia.  We  wandered  up  the  stream  to 
a  very  pretty  double  cascade,  and  then  I  induced  the 
rest  to  go  up  the  mountainside,  to  get  a  view  from  the 
ridges  of  the  country.  Very  steep  work  it  was,  in 
thickly  forested  slopes  of  spruce  and  beech.  We  came 
at  last  to  the  ridge,  and  lo!  there  was  a  stone  wall, 
smooth  meadow-land,  and  in  the  hollow,  near  the 
center,  a  jolly  little  village  with  a  church.  Then 
wooded  ravines,  filmy  blues  and  grays,  vistas  of 
plains.  Farnsworth  and  Heredia  went  down  to  order 
dinner,  while  Sokovna  and  I  chased  round  the  rim  of 
the  bowl  and  sought  more  views.  We  thought  we 
saw  the  foothills  of  the  Alps;  but  I  doubt  it.  The 
dinner  was  sumptuous, — new  fried  potatoes,  not  to 
speak  of  bacon  and  eggs,  and  ending  off  with  blue- 
berry pie  and  raspberries.  The  forbidden  wine, 
Kirsch  (home  made),  warned  us  that  we  must  start 


THE  LEGION  133 

for  home,  half  an  hour  by  the  path  and  all  downhill. 
We  soon  lost  the  path  in  the  darkness;  but  were 
guided  by  the  lights  below  us.  I  should  say  it  was 
downhill — one's  feet  wandered  off  into  air  and  then 
fell  upon  rolling  stones,  and  ever  the  elusive  shades  of 
our  comrades  flitting  on  below.  Again  and  again 
the  ground  seemed  to  become  more  gradual  only  to 
dive  off  steeper.  Whether  it  was  the  good  food  or 
the  stiff  walk  or  both  together,  I  don't  know;  at  any 
rate  I  have  been  laid  up  with  a  most  violent  stomach- 
ache for  the  last  twenty-four  hours. 

As  all  such  happy  ballades  end  we  walked  all  four 
almost  down  the  main  street  and  were  accosted  by 
the  sergeant-du-jour  who  took  our  names,  and  com- 
panies for  a  rapport  of  having  been  found  in  the 
street  ten  minutes  after  the  appel.  Though  I  live 
in  dread,  nothing  has  come  of  it  yet. 

I  hardly  think  I  put  it  strongly  enough  in  the 
first  of  this  letter  how  thankful  I  should  be  to  be  rid 
of  lice  once  and  for  all,  sleep  in  something  better 
than  straw,  and  have  a  table  and  chair  to  use.  After 
this  war  if  ever  anyone  asks  me  to  go  on  a  picnic  I 
think  I  shall  never  speak  to  him  again!  However, 
there's  a  lot  of  difference  in  doing  a  thing  one's  own 
way. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 


AVIATION 


Aviation. 


AVIATION 

August  8,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  You  ought  to  know  when  this  reaches 
you  that  I  have  finally  changed  corps.  A  typical 
instance  of  the  way  things  are  done  in  the  army  is 
the  way  I  was  told  the  news.  I  was  sitting  in  the 
sunshine  playing  mumble-the-peg  with  three  or  four 
others  before  mounting  squad.  Ames  came  up  and 
whispered  in  my  ear  that  a  sergeant  had  just  told 
him  I  was  going  to  the  Aviation.  An  hour  or  so  later 
the  sergeant,  in  an  off-hand  way,  said  I  was  to  leave. 
That  evening  I  met  the  Lieutenant  who  begged  me 
not  to  forget  to  drop  him  a  card.  When  or  whither  I 
was  leaving  no  one  seemed  to  know.  The  next  day 
I  almost  collared  the  Lieutenant  and  we  went  to- 
gether to  the  Bureau.  Oh  yes,  the  demand  had  come 
for  me  to  be  sent  without  delay  to  the  Gare  Regula- 
trice  de  Gray:  I  was  leaving  at  seven  the  next  morn- 
ing. With  many  adieux  and  five  fellows  helping  me 
on  with  my  sack,  I  got  off  and  presented  myself  in 
due  course  at  the  station  of  Champagny  with  a 
sealed  letter  of  the  Commissionaire  Militaire. 

The  contents  of  the  letter  proved  that  it  was  quite 
unnecessary  to  go  to  Gray  since  my  destination  was 
Nancy.  "Change  at  Lure."  A  jolly  unmodern  town 
with  a  Grande  Rue,  Louis  Quinze  windows,  key- 
stones, a  pond  and  trees,  and  a  provincial  brown- 
stone  Louis  XIV  chateau, — now  the  Sous-prefecture. 
At  Ailleures,  I  waited  again  three  hours.  It  was 
some  time  before  I  could  find  the  town  here.  Finally 
I  saw  it  across  the  track  on  a  hill  a  mile  off,  with  stone 
church,  the  image  of  a  New  England  eighteenth 


138         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

century  wood  structure.  Less  amusing  town  than 
Lure,  but  with  very  pretty  children  (to  whom  I  gave 
the  cakes  which  a  drummer  had  forced  upon  me 
in  a  cafe  of  Lure),  and  chickens  perched  on  the 
window-sills.  Groups  of  old  women  and  young  girls 
were  industriously  stuffing  green  litre  bottles  with 
new  string  beans;  and  I  found  an  old  farmer  before 
the  tobacco  shop  with  a  handsome  yoke  of  oxen 
actually  tied  together  with  nothing  more  or  less  than 
his  umbrella !  Oh,  I  forgot  to  tell  you  of  the  typical 
canny,  old  hay-seed  that  talked  endlessly  to  a  well- 
groomed  country  lawyer  or  doctor,  in  the  train  from 
Lure,  about  how  much  you  could  make  on  sheep  in 
certain  pastures:  what  were  the  best  varieties  of 
clover  for  early  harvest:  what  kinds  of  grasses  to 
plant  with  wheat:  and  why  the  old-fashioned  brown 
barley  was  better  than  the  other  varieties  in  spite  of 
its  obvious  defects,  etc.,  and  I  could  not  get  to  sleep. 
He  took  me  to  a  cafe  with  a  territorial  friend  whom 
he  found  guarding  at  the  station.  We  drank  beer 
and  they  took  snuff  and  both  gave  me  sound  advice 
on  aviation — they  were  versed  in  mechanics, — the 
one  knew  a  mowing-machine  and  the  other  ran  a 
flour  mill.  Incidentally  they  were  not  a  little  dis- 
satisfied with  the  military  bureaucracy:  "These 
Parisian  shop  keepers  who  have  never  had  as  much 
as  they  are  now  touching  a  month  as  Captains,  deal- 
ing out  four  days  prison  to  respectable  men  of  45, 
requisitioning  straw,  etc."  With  difficulty  I  boarded 
the  express.  "Guilty  of  something  underhand  until 
proved  to  the  contrary,"  seems  the  attitude  of  all  the 
military  officials.  And  they  only  let  one  by  with  a 
kind  of  despairing,  resigned  air,  as  though  saying: 
"I  suppose  I'll  have  to.  You  beat  me  this  time!" 
A  pale,  olive-complexioned  young  woman  with  a 
fair-haired  little  girl  of  two,  sat  opposite  me.  It  was 
easy  to  see  by  her  calm  resolute,  yet  sad,  face  that 


AVIATION  139 

she  had  lost  her  husband  in  the  war,  even  if  she  were 
not  dressed  in  black.  A  grandmother  and  two  un- 
interesting backfisch  studiously  read  inferior  funny 
sheets  and  deux  sous  novels.  A  tall  respectable 
gentleman  was  resentfully  given  a  place  by  the  fe- 
males. 

I  reached  Nancy  at  8 130  and,  after  the  usual  exam- 
ination, started  on  a  train  to  Malzeville.  Hardly  a 
street  lamp  anywhere,  yet  in  the  darkness  I  saw  a 
handsome  mediaeval  town-gate  with  towers  and  rows 
of  gargoyles  on  the  eaves  of  the  houses  we  passed. 
At  Nancy  the  train  goes  no  further.  "Twenty-five 
minutes  walk  up  hill  and  with  a  sac!  Are  you  mad?" 
This  the  advice  of  a  couple  of  men  who  had  just 
joined  the  Corps  as  mechanics.  I  turned  to  the  cafe 
on  the  street  corner  and  asked  for  information  about 
Hotels.  " Eh  toil  Poilu!  d' ou  viens  tu?  Fiens,  prends 
un  bock"  In  the  semi-darkness  on  the  sidewalk  sat 
\wofantassins,  two  girls  and  an  old  man.  They  were 
all  in  exuberant  spirits  as  though  they  had  just  met, 
and  pressed  me  with  questions.  Where  did  I  come 
from?  going  where?  seen  fighting?  etc.,  all  mixed  in 
with  adoring  by-play  between  the  sexes.  I  launched 
forth  on  the  Legion,  the  Aviation,  engage  volontier; 
and  incidentally  let  them  know  that  I  came  from 
some  Regiment — of  which  not  much  was  left  now, 
but  which  showed  its  temper  at  Carency,  de  Bettrau, 
de  Lorette,  etc.  "And  where  do  you  come  from?" 
said  I.  "Bois  le  Pretre."  Oh!  I  changed  my  tone. 
Bois  le  Pretre: — the  Germans  call  it  the  Forest  of 
Death — is  about  the  most  famous  and  dangerous 
section  on  all  the  Front,  and  the  only  place  really  on 
a  par  with  Arras  because  of  the  heavy  fighting  there 
since  last  autumn.  "Yes,  we  have  been  there  a  year 
now  and  I  tell  you  we  were  glad  to  get  off."  "On 
permission?"  "No,  we  just  beat  it.  It's  only 
twenty  kilometres  off.  M.,  here,  is  a  telephonist,  and 


i4o         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

we  got  across  the  Moselle  bridge  by  pretending  to  be 
mending  the  line."  The  beer  was  very,  very  good. 
"  Tiens,  je  connais  un  Americain  de  V ambulance. 
Son  nom  de  famille  ne  me  reviens  pas,  mais  tout  le 
monde  Vappelle  l  Fillie.'  C'est  le  type  le  plus  charmant, 
le  plus  gentil  que  je  n'ai  jamais  vu."  Of  course  it  was 
Willie  Iselin.  The  long  and  the  short  of  it,  I  was  taken 
to  the  house  of  the  larger  Poilu.  The  prettiest  girl 
was  his  wife,  the  other,  the  wife  of  his  foreman, — he 
being  a  rubber  manufacturer  and  engineer.  His 
friend,  the  telephonist,  who  wore  the  regimental  blue 
tie  as  though  it  were  a  silk  cravat  at  a  wedding,  was 
in  the  Peugeot  automobile  business.  Everything  in 
the  house  was  higgledy-piggledy:  two  days'  unwashed 
dishes  in  the  kitchen;  but  who  cared?  Cold  meats 
were  produced  from  somewhere,  lima  beans  heated, 
much  time  and  discussion  was  expended  on  a  mayon- 
naise which  looked  splendid  when  finally  created;  but 
later  we  discovered  it  to  be  devoid  of  vinegar.  Red 
wine  and  champagne,  and  then  a  fellow  in  blue  jeans 
came  in,  very  solemn,  like  the  boy  in  Pickwick  grown 
older,  and  explaining  how  he  had  found  the  house  the 
first  try,  sat  down  at  the  end  of  the  table.  "One 

of  my  workmen,"  said  M.  B ,  "in  the  artillery, 

wounded  twice,  has  croix  de  guerre"  The  round 
faced  man  remained  very  quiet  all  through  dinner; 
but  I  suspect  he  consumed  his  share  of  the  seductive 
white  liqueur  which  I  was  introduced  to,  called  Mira- 
belle, — a  great  friend  for  trench-life,  but  there  is  such 
a  thing  as  pushing  it  too  far. 

They  told  me  how  from  time  to  time  they  had 
private  truces  with  the  German  sentinels,  traded 
cigars  and  magazines,  even  had  signals — three  shots 
in  the  air  for  a  change  of  guards,  so  that  the  other 
fellow  should  know  that  he  must  not  show  himself 
any  more.  "Odd,  the  way  it  works,  this  mobilization 
of  labor  and  recall  of  mechanics  from  the  Front," 


AVIATION  141 

said  the  rubber  manufacturer,  showing  me  a  wad  of 
what  appeared  to  be  mattress-stuffing,  "the  beard  I 
shaved  this  morning.  They  have  requisitioned  my 
shop  and  pay  me  one  franc  a  day,  besides  they  intend 
to  remove  the  lathes,  etc.  (Not  if  I  know  it!)  Now 
being  a  patron  I  recall  my  men,  but  I  can't  recall 
myself.  Hence  I  remain  at  Bois  le  Pretre."  Finally 
the  little  old  man  with  the  drooping  gray  moustache 
took  me  to  his  house  where  I  slept  in  a  feather  bed 
with  a  Mauser  and  a  Bavarian  casque  on  the  wall 
beside  me.  I  took  coffee  with  the  poilus  next  morn- 
ing and  presented  each  girl  with  a  little  aluminum 
ring. 

Here  I  find  myself  in  the  Escadrille  of  Cowdin  and 
Prince;  but  for  the  moment  they  are  both  away, 
Cowdin  getting  another  machine  at  Paris,  and 
Prince  in  the  north  with  a  cannon  de  35. 

August  9. 

Queer  crowd  these  mechanic  embusques,  so  far  as 
'comfort  goes!  Yet  they  go  out  and  get  pulled  down 
with  equanimity.  They  have  the  civilian's  point  of 
view  of  the  dangers  of  the  war,  yet  think  nothing  of 
it  when  their  copan  so-and-so  gets  killed  trying  out  a 
new  machine.  It's  because  it's  their  profession, — 
most  of  them  were  in  it  before  the  war.  This  letter 
was  disturbed  last  evening  by  the  Brittany  sailors.— 
They  are  here  for  the  little  cannon  that  are  mounted 
on  some  of  the  machines.  "La  Loopine!  le  voild  qui 
fait  la  loopine!"  Running  out  behind  the  little  pine 
groves  onto  the  plain,  all  about  on  the  horizon  were 
the  voisins  sailing  slowly  like  buzzards,  or  passing 
serenely  overhead.  But  right  above  was  a  small 
moth-shaped  " appareil"  going  over  and  over  like  a 
flat  stone  on  the  end  of  a  string.  Near  it,  gliding  on 
its  wing-tip,  a  similar  bird;  now  dipping,  now  rising 
on  its  edge  with  the  sun  glistening  the  length  of  its 
fuselage,  like  a  pickerel  darting  from  the  water.  Just 


i42         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

a  couple  of  Nieuports  which  have  come  from  the 
station.  They  show  they  are  in  good  form  and  not 
fatigued  by  the  journey  in  doing  a  stunt  or  two  be- 
fore descending.  This  morning  "bombardment," 
up  at  3 130,  still  half  dark.  A  few  bright  stars,  the 
moon  a  silver  crust  with  the  suggestion  of  the  whole 
moon  outlined  above.  Flaming  crests  of  cloud 
emerging  from  a  dull  blue  bank.  All  over  the  field 
the  screech  of  engines  tuning  up,  then  they  run 
along  the  ground  to  the  starting  positions.  Cannon 
factories  are  to  be  bombarded.  Each  group  is  by 
itself.  One  by  one  they  run  along  the  ground  and 
off  into  space.  Five,  seven,  twelve,  nineteen,  twenty- 
six — I  lose  count.  They  keep  going  away  towards 
the  horizon  and  then  circle  overhead.  A  lull,  no 
more  going  up;  but  from  above  comes  the  ceaseless 
buzzing  like  locusts  in  a  wood.  Seventy-one  left 
altogether,  they  tell  me,  and  one  of  our  group  has 
not  come  back.  I  am  affected  here  as  mitrailleur,  and 
wait  Cowdin's  return. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

Malzeville, 

Friday,  August  20,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  I  was  over-joyed  and  entranced  to  re- 
ceive your  delightful  letter  with  the  interesting  en- 
closures. A  day  or  so  after  I  received  my  change  of 
corps  and  was  sent  here  to  Nancy.  I  found  myself  in 
the  Escadrille  of  Prince  and  Cowdin,  as  mitrailleur  or 
bombardier.  Both  are  away.  Prince  is  said  to  be  in 
the  north  with  an  Avion  cannon,  and  Cowdin  is  in 
Paris  presumably  getting  a  new  machine.  It  has 
been  very  dull  here.  I  did  not  kick  at  once  to  be 
sent  to  a  school  to  learn  to  pilot,  as  I  had  understood 
from  Cowdin  that  one  could  learn  at  the  Front, 
without  being  side-tracked  for  a  considerable  time 


AVIATION  143 

in  the  rear;  and  a  little  practical  experience,  I 
thought,  would  help  me  in  any  case.  Well,  neither 
of  them  has  returned,  and  since  a  young  Lieutenant 
turned  up  I  was  assigned  to  him  and  have  made  three 
or  four  trial  flights.  I  have  written  to  Prince  and 
Cowdin;  but  evidently  I've  not  their  address.  So  I 
have  written  to  Paris  to  find  out  the  state  of  affairs. 
This  morning,  having  put  the  letter  in  the  box,  I 
leisurely  came  over  from  the  tent  where  we  sleep,  to 
the  aeroplanes.  There  was  to  have  been,  at  six 
o'clock,  bomb-dropping  practice.  My  arrival  was 
heralded  by  shouts,  "  Depeche-toi!  Le  Capitaine 
t'appelle"  The  latter  called  me  over  and  said  that 
since  I  made  such  a  face  about  not  being  allowed  to 
go  with  the  Russian  Lieutenant  the  other  day,  would 
I  like  to  take  Parran's  mechanic's  place  and  go  on  the 
big  raid  on  the  Imperial  Palace  at  Treves.  "Je  ne 
demande  pas  mieux"  "You  know  how  to  load  the 
155  and  the  use  of  the  sighting  machine?"  "Yes." 
So  they  bundled  me  up  in  overshoes  and  fur  coats, 
rammed  a  passe-montagne  and  a  casque  on  my  head, 
and  led  me  over  to  the  spot  where  the  machines  were 
already  lined  up.  I  cranked  the  motor  and  watched 
the  machines  before  us  depart  at  intervals  of  fifteen 
seconds.  Sixty  left  in  all,  so  I  am  told.  But  I  forgot 
to  explain  to  you  that  this  corps  is  for  nothing  but 
bombardments,  and  they  are  all  Voisins  here,  except 
two  or  three  Nieuports  to  chase  Aviatics  if  they  come 
to  Nancy.  The  appareil  before  us  left,  and  we 
bounced  over  the  ground  and  glided  off  the  plateau. 
The  weather  was  clear,  few  clouds,  only  near  the 
ground  were  bits  of  mist  looking  like  the  wool  which 
sticks  to  a  dark  suit  after  one  has  been  lying  on  a 
bed.  Our  route  was  not  to  go  straight  across  the 
lines  at  Pont-a-Mousson,  but  passing  by  way  of 
Toul,  Commercy,  and  St.  Mihiel  to  cross  the  ligne 
de  feu  north  of  Verdun,  and  thence,  a  direct  course 


144         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

to  Treves.  You  don't  know  what  it  looks  like  to  be 
in  an  aeroplane  with  the  land  of  France  below;  its 
woods  cut  with  straight  edges  and  the  patch  quilt 
of  cultivated  land  in  tiny  rectangles.  The  French 
like  to  make  everything  in  straight  lines,  and  this 
well-populated  region  shows  the  effect.  We  gained 
a  good  altitude  over  the  forest  between  Nancy  and 
Toul — 12  to  1800  metres;  but  I  began  to  find  more 
and  more  fuzzy  clouds  in  the  low  lands  and  river 
valleys.  West  of  Toul,  where  we  crossed  the  Meuse 
and  followed  it,  the  north  wind  became  very  strong; 
but  below  us  the  banks  of  mist  became  thicker  and 
thicker.  North  of  Commercy  we  lost  sight  of  the 
earth  altogether  under  two  layers  of  clouds,  one 
sticking  like  a  blanket  to  the  earth,  and  another 
flowing  under  us.  It  was  like  Alice  in  Wonderland, 
where  one  had  to  run  very  fast  to  stay  in  the 
same  place.  The  view  ahead  and  on  the  east  side 
was  like  snow-fields  of  soft  wet  snow,  with  here  and 
there  hillocks  rising  in  it  with  blue  shadows.  The 
sun  shone  full  upon  us,  and  looking  down  I  could  see 
our  faint  shadow  on  the  filmy  veil  of  moving  clouds 
surrounded  by  sometimes  one,  often  two  rainbows, 
which  formed  a  complete  circle.  Before  us  ever 
bobbed  and  dipped  other  appareils.  Sometimes  one 
saw  only  three  or  four,  sometimes  fifteen  or  more. 
Oddly  we  appeared  always  to  fly  steadily  in  a  straight 
line,  yet  the  other  planes  flitted  from  side  to  side 
and  dipped  below  one  another.  Now  and  then,  in 
the  crevices  between  the  clouds,  we  saw  bits  of 
trenches,  for  inadvertently,  we  had  crossed  the 
salient.  Trenches  from  above,  with  their  boyaux, 
look  like  the  worn  furrows  one  sees  on  dead  tree 
trunks  when  the  bark  is  removed. 

Then  we  began  to  notice  that  all  the  aeroplanes 
before  us  veered  off  to  the  west,  and  I  suddenly  saw 
a  ball  of  white  smoke  which  I  afterwards  learned 


AVIATION  145 

was  the  signal  to  return  because  of  unfavorable 
weather.  There  was  a  rift  in  the  clouds  just  where 
we  wheeled  and  the  German  gunners  must  have 
noticed  us,  for  they  sent  several  shrapnel  shells  up. 
One  gets  such  an  enormous  feeling  of  space,  having 
nothing  definitely  near  one,  that  those  little  puffs  of 
smoke  looked  pitiably  inadequate  and  ill  placed. 
Twenty  odd  planes  I  counted  distinctly  before  me 
at  the  turning  point.  We  fled  south,  always  with  the 
other  machines  flitting  before,  and  got  our  bearings 
again  by  seeing  ground  and  the  big  double  curve 
that  the  Meuse  makes  by  St.  Mihiel,  with  a  canal 
like  a  bow-string  across  it.  It  was  far  less  foggy  to 
the  south.  We  passed  over  Void  and  were  flying 
lower  as  we  neared  Toul.  Toul  itself  looks  like  an 
ancient  walled  town.  At  any  rate  it  has  a  fringe  of 
trees  all  round  it  which  slopes  down  to  the  river's 
edge  on  two  sides,  narrow  intricate  streets  and  red 
roofs  with  a  big  twin-towered  cathedral  emerging 
from  the  place,  like  a  picture  of  similar  edifices  on 
bad  maps  of  Paris.  Again  the  forest  with  its  edges 
as  though  cut  by  a  scissors,  and  straight  lines  of 
roads  traced  across  it.  Odd,  the  roads  in  the  open 
wind  all  over  creation,  but  on  entering  the  woods 
they  go  straight  as  an  arrow  as  though  to  form  pre- 
arranged geometrical  patterns.  Nancy,  a  great 
irregular  cluster  of  houses,  is  easily  recognized  by  the 
two  great  cones  of  iron  ore  debris  south  of  the  town 
near  the  river.  They  must  be  very  large  for  they 
look  as  large  as  a  city  block, — one  is  black,  the  other 
white.  Then,  taking  a  dip,  we  sailed  down  to  the 
aviation  field  with  its  white  tents  and  numerous 
aeroplanes  looking  like  so  many  white  moths  pinned 
on  a  green  background.  As  we  drew  near  and  I  saw 
the  trees  and  suburban  gardens  on  a  large  scale,  it 
came  upon  me  how  very  much  greener  they  were 
getting.  The  little  willows  and  the  tall  grass  by  the 


146         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

very  crooked  little  stream  just  sparkled  in  emeralds 
and  sapphires  when  seen  from  2000  metres  (that's  a 
mile  and  a  quarter). 

I  started  this  to  Uncle  Willy,  but  suddenly  remem- 
bered that  everything  was  opened  on  entering 
Switzerland,  and  the  names  here  given  are  perhaps 
of  military  importance.  I  hope  to  go  on  another  raid 
tomorrow  if  the  weather  is  fine.  I  have  done  not  a 
little  mitrailleuse  practice  lately,  otherwise  it  is  very 
dull  here. 

My  best  love  to  all. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

Malzeville,  August  24,  1915. 

August  25,  1915. 

Dear  Conrad:  Yesterday  I  made  my  first  successful 
raid  into  Germany.  It  has  been  put  off  so  long  that 
it  was  judged  best  to  change  the  place.  However, 
yesterday  morning  we  lined  up  the  machines  for  a 
start.  At  the  other  end  of  the  plateau  the  machines 
were  following  each  other  into  the  air  when — zu-zz- 
bung!  The  signal  for  a  German  aeroplane,  and  then 
we  noticed  smoke  balls  in  the  sky.  The  little  "75" 
on  the  field  began  to  speak,  and  then  above  us  run- 
ning fast,  though  at  a  great  height,  soared  an  Aviatic. 
Four  black  puffs  of  smoke  ballooned  out  successively 
across  the  field, — the  last  one  landing  well  among  the 
sheds.  The  Boche  turned  off  and  vanished. 

At  last  we  were  off  and,  following  the  Meurthe 
river  southeast,  we  quickly  passed  over  St.  Nicholas 
and  shortly  reached  the  rendez-vous  above  the  village 
of  Gerbevillier  where  we  circled  round  and  round  to 
get  our  height  and  await  the  others.  Height,  you 
know,  is  a  great  security,  for  the  greater  distance  you 
are  up  the  more  chance  you  have,  if  your  motor 


AVIATION  147 

stops,  not  to  land  on  a  forest,  or,  in  this  case,  behind 
the  German  lines.  With  22  to  2600  metres  and  head 
wind  one  can  sail  a  good  way.  Prince,  I  believe, 
made  26  kilometres.  Our  group  (about  twenty), 
continued  to  circle  round.  I  began  to  wonder  if  they 
were  squealing  that  the  weather  was  unfavorable. 
There  was  a  slight  haze  which,  dropping  a  little 
above  the  horizon  a  shimmering  white  to  the  south 
fading  into  an  opaque  purple  at  the  north,  hid  the 
details  of  the  farther  landscape  and  revealed  unwill- 
ingly the  nearer.  Yet  directly  below  it  always  seemed 
clear  enough. 

Keeping  my  eyes  on  the  Captain's  taxi  I  saw  a 
white  ribbon  of  smoke, — the  starting  signal.  It 
reminded  me  of  a  trotting  race  and  "They're  off!" 
after  the  half-hour's  jockeying  round  and  round.  It 
was  now  nearly  eight  and  we  took  our  course  about 
15°  east  of  north.  (Get  a  map  if  you  can  and  follow). 
Leaving  Luneville  to  westward  we  crossed  succes- 
sively the  Meurthe,  Vezouse  and  Sanon,  and  I  be- 
came interested  in  a  muddy  lake  north  of  the  Marne- 
Rhine  canal.  Lakes  are  the  best  landmarks.  We 
were  right  over  firing  lines  now.  Roads  branched  out 
into  numerous  paths  and  these  became  worm-holes, — 
the  boyaux  and  trenches.  The  spotty  little  villages 
showed  often  no  red  roofs,  only  gray  walls.  I  remem- 
ber Arracourt — very  easy  to  spot  because  it  lies 
entirely  along  one  great  street,  hardly  a  bit  of  brick 
red  left.  Now  we  were  not  only  in  the  German  lines, 
but  in  German  territory.  The  puffs  of  white  smoke 
to  the  right  and  left  of  the  "cuckoes"  ahead  showed 
we  were  noticed.  Ah,  to  the  north  a  big  pond,  Linden 
Wethof.  By  it  the  town  of  Dieuze,  a  railroad  (I'm 
getting  so  I  can  recognize  them  now.  They  always 
look  grayer  in  comparison  to  the  yellow  highways, 
and  have  less  sharp  turns),  and  chateau — Salins  to 
the  west. 


i48         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

We  crossed  the  railroad  and  here  I  noticed  a  town 
with   German   influence.     Yes,   one  end   of  it   the 
typical  huddle  of  roofs,  but  to  the  east  bunches  of 
trees  separating  the  houses,  and  then  bigger  houses 
and  courts — barracks!  of  course;  but  my!  there  were 
lots  of  them  in  Morchingeh.     "Wind  coming  from 
northeast,"  I  told  the  Lieutenant  on  a  piece  of  paper, 
judging  from  the  ripples  on  Bordi- Wether,  a  splendid 
lake  to  recognize  because  of  three  prongs   to  the 
south.     St.  Val  and  the  forest  we  passed  over,  and 
then  the  Lieutenant  jogged  me  to  make  a  sighting  so 
as  to  get  our  speed  for  dropping  the  projectile.    Plac- 
ing the  sights  successively  at  the  spots  marked  for 
the  height  we  were  (2400  metres)  I  took  two  views 
of  the  same  object,  keeping  the  time  with  a  stop 
watch  (3 1  seconds)  and  by  this  means  get  the  spot  on 
the  curve  of  my  projectile  for  that  height.    We  must 
be  nearing  the  spot  for  the  Lieutenant  motioned  me 
to   load   the   projectile.     This   is   by  far  the  most 
difficult  operation,  for  the  155  shell  with  its  tin  tail 
looking  like  a  torpedo  four  feet  long,  is  hung  under 
the  body  and  without  seeing  its  nose  even  one  has  to 
reach  down  in  front  of  the  pilot,  put  the  detonateur  in, 
then  the  percuteur  and  screw  it  fast.    After  which  I 
pulled  off  a  safety  device.    You  may  imagine  how  I 
scrambled  round  in  a  fur  coat  and  two  pair  of  leather 
trousers  and  squeezed  myself  to  get  my  arm  down  the 
hole.    I  really  had  a  moment's  nervousness  that  the 
detonateur  would  not  stay  in  the  hole  but  fly  back 
into  the  helice.     However,   all  went  well  and  the 
Lieutenant  handed  me  the  plan  of  the  town  of  Dil- 
lingen  where  there  were  said  to  be  huge  casting  works. 
Bad  map  it  was  and  I  got  nothing  out  of  the  inaudible 
explanations  and  gestures.     We  were  just  passing 
over  the  river  Saar  by  Pachten.    Everything  on  the 
detail  map  was  red.     I   still  have  scruples   about 
dropping  on  dwelling  houses — they  might  be  Alsa- 


AVIATION  149 

tians.  Right  under  us  was  a  great  junction  of  rail- 
way lines,  tracks  and  sidings.  "That's  a  go,"  I 
thought,  and  pulled  the  handle  when  it  came  in  the 
sighter.  A  slight  sway  and  below  me  the  blue-gray 
shell  poised  and  dipped  its  head.  Straight  away  and 
then  it  seemed  to  remain  motionless.  Pretty  soon  its 
tail  began  to  wag  in  small  circles  and  then  I  lost  sight 
of  it  over  some  tree-tops.  "Pshaw,"  I  thought, 
"there  it's  going  to  fall  on  its  side,  and  into  a  garden. 
Taut  pis!"  When  all  at  once,  in  the  middle  of  the 
railroad  tracks  a  cloud  of  black  smoke  which  looked 
big  even  from  that  height.  The  Lieutenant  said 
afterwards  that  I  rocked  the  whole  ship  when  I  saw 
where  it  had  fallen! 

We  turned  to  the  south  and  setting  myself  back 
on  my  collapsible  seat  I  drew  out  some  chocolates 
and  fed  some  to  the  Lieutenant.  The  wind  behind 
us,  now  we  were  running  along,  I  found  difficulty  in 
keeping  it  on  the  map.  We  crossed  two  railroad 
lines,  that  was  Bolchen,  and  giving  a  berth  to  Metz 
on  account  of  its  guns,  headed  toward  the  lines  at 
Nomeny.  There  before  us  were  sixteen  Voisins,  and 
there  ought  to  be  a  Nieuport  or  two  to  protect  us 
from  those  Boche  hawks.  Some  were  quite  near  and 
the  glint  of  their  propellers  shone,  when  on  closer 
inspection  the  nearest  propeller  was  hardly  turning. 
The  aeroplane  sunk  lower  and  lower  and  disappeared 
below  us.  White  puffs  of  smoke  to  our  right  and  left 
announced  random  shots  at  us.  There  was  Pont-a- 
Mousson,  and  below  us  again  finely  engraved  trench 
patterns  with  every  little  knoll  and  wood's  edge 
fortified  by  the  zigzag  pattern.  The  river-valley 
lay  ahead,  the  railroads  and  factories  and  Nancy  be- 
hind the  plateau.  Swinging  lower  over  the  western 
woods  we  re-crossed  the  river  and  glided  onto  the 
plateau.  Ten  forty-five  and  we  had  only  left  at  seven 
o'clock. 


ISO         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

From  a  good  altitude  the  country  looks  like  noth- 
ing so  much  as  a  rich  old  Persian  carpet.  Where  the 
fields  are  cultivated  one  sees  the  soil  now  a  rich 
pinky  red  fading  into  a  light  yellow,  or  running  into 
dark  browns.  The  green  fields,  oblong  patches  and 
the  brick-roofed  villages  like  figures  on  the  carpets 
connected  by  threads  of  roads  and  rivers;  superposed 
upon  it  here  and  there  in  big  and  little  patches — al- 
ways with  straight  edges — are  the  woods,  a  dull, 
darkish  green,  for  they  are  pine  woods.  In  the  direc- 
tion of  the  sun  the  bits  of  water  shine  silver.  In  the 
opposite  direction  they  are  blue,  but  the  darkest 
objects  to  be  seen, — making  the  woods  seem  pale  in 
contrast. 

Show  this  letter  to  Papa  and  Dear  Ma.  There 
were  said  to  have  been  seventy  who  left  yesterday, — 
only  two  lost.  One  man  was  killed  and  two  wrecked 
by  the  Aviatic. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

Picardy,  northwest  of  Amiens, 

September  5,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  All  the  past  week  we  have  been  chang- 
ing domicile.  Monday  packing  everything,  Tuesday 
morning  the  last  finishing  touches — as  heaving  tents 
and  personal  belongings  all  into  the  autos  and 
ramorques.  No  train,  no  orders.  Wednesday  came 
and  went,  also  Thursday.  Finally  Friday  morn- 
ing we  started  for  the  station  and  put  all  the  trucks 
on  flat  cars,  and  left  that  evening.  Arrived  here, 
S.  P.  102,  near  St.  Paul-en-Tennoise  this  morn- 
ing. I  did  not  have  so  bad  a  journey,  having  found 
the  ramorque  (trailer)  with  our  luggage,  and  lay 
out  comfortably  reading  the  New  York  Times  and 
London  Times  Editorials,  gifts  from  Uncle  Willy  and 
Mr.  Jaccaci  respectively.  Finally  I  became  too 


AVIATION  151 

saturated  and  pulled  out  Emerson,  and  really  got 
started  in  on  "Great  Men."  At  intervals  I  ate  and 
divided  with  a  couple  of  mecaniciens,  patees  and 
sausages.  Here  I  am  again  back  in  Picardy;  same 
flat  country,  same  villages  with  their  hedges  and 
horse  ponds,  one-storey  houses  and  muddy  streets. 
No,  the  inhabitants  are  not  so  cordial  or  forthcoming 
as  in  the  eastern  provinces.  For  instance,  the  last 
night  in  Malzeville  I  decided  that  I  would  not  sleep 
out  on  the  open  on  the  plateau,  so  after  dinner  in  a 
little  auberge  I  tried  to  beat  up  a  hole.  It  was  nine 
o'clock  and  pitch  dark.  (No  street  lamps.)  The 
girl  of  the  cafe  got  information  of  a  room  in  one  side 
street.  She  went  ahead  yelling  the  good  woman's 
name.  Blinds  went  up,  woman's  head  popped  out: 
"  Militaire  qui  veut  un  lit  pour  la  nuit."  Down  they 
come,  two  of  them,  they  suggest  this  house,  try 
that, — find  a  bed  but  not  the  owner  and  go  off  on  a 
wild  hunt  for  the  latter.  Meanwhile  the  second  lady 
I  had  routed  out  takes  me  into  her  kitchen  and 
entertains  me  with  conversation  and  anisette,  till 
the  owner  of  the  spare  bed  is  discovered  at  a  friend's 
house.  More  anisette,  healths,  handshakes  and  a 
comfortable  bed.  How  different  from  the  tooth- 
extracting  method  I  had  to  pursue  this  morning  to 
get  some  rope  for  a  hammock.  "No,  she  only  had 
string  so  much  the  kilo."  But  what's  that  behind  the 
paper?  "For  hitching-ropes."  While  I  was  looking 
it  over  and  taking  fifty  sous9  worth  she  was  actually 
grudging  me  the  time,  saying  she  had  other  things  to 
do.  The  night's  lodging  at  Malzeville  incidentally 
was  only  a  franc.  Still  the  tile-roofed,  white-washed 
mud  homes  here  are  charming  and  recall  Hangest  and 
other  villages.  On  the  whole  this  little  village  looks 
cleaner  than  the  ones  to  the  eastward  which  I  am 
used  to.  Gray  stone  and  brick  gable  ends.  Clean, 
unimaginative  colors  almost  like  poster  designs,  so 


152         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

different  from  the  hazy  pinks,  violets  and  emeralds  of 
the  Nancy  region. 

I  have  the  latest  wrinkle  now.  It's  a  hammock, 
strung  very  tight  and  padded  to  sleep  in.  It  comes 
in  particularly  well  tonight,  for  no  straw  was  given 
out.  Back  to  barn  life.  One  sees  how  picturesque 
it  is  after  a  month  in  tents.  In  fact,  the  soldier  at 
the  front  is  about  the  most  picturesque  animal  I  can 
think  of,  except  perhaps  an  oriental  beggar;  and  his 
psychology  is  peculiar.  But  we  are  so  wrapped  up 
in  doing  something,  or  in  complaining  how  bored  we 
are,  that  we  don't  think  of  it.  It's  like  the  attitude  of 
the  College  undergraduate,  inexplicable  to  anyone 
else.  I  can't  go  into  it  now  for  it's  late  and  the  last 
man  has  got  into  bed;  but  the  soldier's  joy  is  the 
getting  of  everything  for  nothing,  and  disregard  for 
the  value.  Chop  up  tables  and  chairs  to  make  fire 
for  soup,  one  day,  instead  of  looking  farther,  and  be 
forced  next  week  to  construct  the  same  most  in- 
geniously from  branches  and  small  boxes. 

Sunday,  September  10,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  I  was  much  moved  by  your  letter  on  the 
wings  of  prayer.  I  could  write  oftener,  I  have  the 
time  and  the  inclination;  but  I  find  my  thoughts  run 
easily  only  on  critical  subjects. 

I  blazed  away  at  a  target  with  the  mitrailleuse 
yesterday  afternoon,  and  when  we  got  through  and 
came  back  to  the  tents  I  wandered  off  picking  dan- 
delions for  salad,  not  that  I  eat  it  with  relish  but  a 
fellow  said  he  could  make  it  excellent  with  sauce. 
The  Avion  cannons  came  over  to  practice  on  a  target 
and  a  little  captive  balloon  with  some  new  variety  of 
shell.  Among  them  Prince,  who  returned  from 
Paris  that  morning  with  another  machine.  I  found 
him  rushing  round  to  get  the  springs  on  his  "aileron 
de  profondeur"  strengthened  before  the  shooting. 


AVIATION  153 

Everything  is  going  to  come  out  all  right  pretty  soon. 
He  is  coming  over  this  morning  and  we'll  lunch  to- 
gether somewhere  and  patch  up  some  scheme  to  get 
me  taught  at  once.  Perhaps  there  is  a  school-Farman 
on  his  field,  and  we  could  borrow  it,  while  I  would  be 
designated  to  his  machine  as  aide-mecanicien  or  the 
like.  But  "il  s'agit"  to  fix  it  up  with  the  authorities. 
The  Commandant  of  this  group  is  said  to  have  an 
interest  in  the  Voisin  concern;  however  that  may  be 
he  discourages  demands  for  pilotages  on  every  other 
machine.  Prince  says  there  are  two  Americans 
already  at  the  Front  in  Nieuports  and  in  a  month  or  so 
the  Escadrille  will  really  be  formed.  It's  being  put 
off  for  the  moment,  because  probably  the  first  two 
are  doing  so  well,  and  they  are  short  of  that  type. 
Besides  there  are  military  operations,  etc. 

September  II,  1915. 

Dear  Chanler:  Last  night  we  had  almost  a  feast 
with  a  large  hare  a  fellow  shot  the  other  day,  cooked 
by  a  large  fat  Marseillais,  who  claims  to  have  once 
prepared  a  banquet  for  the  Lord  Mayor  of  London. 
In  any  case  it  was  very  good,  for  we  scraped  up  a 
glassful  of  Madeira  and  some  seasoning  herbs.  The 
pink-complexioned,  orange-moustached  Manieser  had 
a  long  serious  discussion  with  the  Lord  Mayor's 
cook  and  the  mouldy  little,  ragged-bearded  corporal, 
Duval,  on  new  Russian  victories  and  the  imminent 
fate  of  Constantinople.  I  turned  to  listen  to  the 
gossip  of  the  younger  group  at  the  other  end  of  the 
table, — three  long  planks  nailed  on  a  barrel  and 
lighted  by  a  couple  of  candles  and  a  home-made 
gasolene  lamp.  They  are  mostly  of  the  class  of 
quinze.  A  black-haired  Breton,  Putingnon,  rather 
duller  than  the  rest  and  therefore  scorned,  for  he 
jumps  into  a  conversation  from  the  other  end  of  the 
table,  without  really  being  aware  what  it  is  about,  as 


iS4         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

"Qa  fait  du  bien,  tout  de  meme  de  manger  la  gamelle  de 
temps  en  temps" — when  they  were  talking  of  cheese. 

There  was  Vincent,  a  little  light-complexioned, 
smiling  chap  from  the  neighborhood  of  Nancy.  It 
was  he  who  rounded  up  the  hare.  Then,  de  Phillipon, 
a  large  black-eye-browed  athletic, — I  guess  he  is  of 
the  class  12  or  13  for  he  has  been  in  the  game  since 
the  beginning,  and  has  even  the  "croix  de  guerre" 
He  shot  the  hare.  Bar-le-Duc,  a  white-faced, 
lantern-jawed  Lillois,  self-effacing,  intelligent  fellow, 
knows  quite  a  bit  of  English.  Incidentally  he  told 
me  that  de  Phillipon  destroyed  his  house  in  the 
suburbs  of  Lille,  beside  a  railway  station.  The  latter 
aimed  at  the  station  but  hit  the  house.  By  escaped 
refugees  it  appeared  to  be  a  lucky  shot,  for  it  killed 
three  German  Commandants  and  thirty  odd  soldiers. 
Beside  these  come  Millet,  a  pretty  pink-cheeked 
boy,  who  got  into  the  Aviation  because  his  father 
supplied  studded  canvas  to  some  aeroplane  firm.  He 
and  his  inseparable  companion,  a  taller,  more  mascu- 
line type,  have  the  hammocks  which  I  copied,  and 
supplied  the  stove  for  cooking  the  hare.  Lastly  there 
was  the  Dragon-ordinance  of  the  Lieutenant,  a  short, 
stocky,  blue-eyed  fellow  with  seventeen  hairs  on  each 
side  of  his  nose  carefully  rolled  together  and  pointed. 
Every  one  of  these  young  men  have  moustaches,  as 
every  Frenchman  should;  but  in  most  cases  one  has 
to  look  closely  to  discover  it. 

After  remarking  on  the  outrageous  price  of  wine 
here — fifteen  sous  the  litre — they  turned  to  discuss- 
ing the  characters  of  the  Conducteurs  (auto  drivers). 
I  didn't  follow  the  ins  and  outs,  not  knowing  the 
names;  but  the  general  conclusion  was  they  were 
paysans  and,  with  one  or  two  passable  exceptions, 
unworthy  of  being  associated  with  the  mecanos. 
The  party  broke  up, — Vincent  playing  a  few  sensa- 
tional Parisian  ditties  on  a  broken-winded  accordion. 


AVIATION  155 

The  Lord  Mayor's  cook  ponderously  climbed  the 
ladder  into  the  hay  loft,  and  I  arranged  my  peau  de 
bique  (goat-skin  coat  to  cover  me  in  the  hammock), 
and  folded  up  my  newspaper. 

September  20,  1915. 

Dear  Papa:  My  demand  went  through.  I  go  in 
two  days  to  Avord,  near  Bourges.  Poor  hole,  I  hear. 
However,  I  shall  learn  to  fly.  The  American  end  of 
it  is  coming  on  very  well,  Prince  tells  me.  He  is  in  a 
camp  near  by, — I  took  French  leave  and  spent  the 
day  with  him.  He  came  over  and  hustled  things 
along  for  -me.  Eight  Americans  at  the  Front  and 
twelve  training.  Prince  has  permission  for  an  un- 
limited number  at  the  schools  now  and  is  very 
anxious  to  get  as  many  as  possible. 

Camp  d'Avord,  Sept.  27,  1915. 
Well,  at  last  I  was  given  my  "Ordre  de  Service" 
and  ticket  to  come  here.  I  stopped  off  three  days 
at  Paris  and  saw  Cowdin,  Jaccaci,  Hester,  Laura  and 
Kisling.  Cowdin  treated  me  like  a  brick,  and  the 
American  Flying  Corps  will  really  go  through  after 
this  attack.  Cowdin  has  BarreY  word  for  it.  With  a 
letter  from  Prince,  I  had  no  difficulty  getting  into 
the  Morane  School, — the  slowest  and  most  difficult 
machine  to  learn  on,  but  makes  a  better  pilot.  I  find 
a  compatriot  I  am  proud  to  own  here.  A  tall, 
lanky  Kentuckian,  called  Rockwell.  He  got  his 
transfer  about  a  month  ago  from  the  Legion.  He 
was  wounded  on  the  ninth  of  May,  like  Kisling.  In 
fact  one-half  of  the  2me  de  Marche,  2300,  were 
wounded  that  day,  not  counting  the  killed  and 
missing.  He  gives  much  the  best  account  I  have 
heard.  Having  charged  with  the  third  battalion  and 
being  wounded  in  the  leg  on  the  last  bouck,  he 
crawled  back  across  the  entire  field  in  the  afternoon. 


156          LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

At  this  moment  I  have  mixed  feelings  of  pride,  envy 
and  sorrow,  for  he  has  just  received  a  postal  from  a 
friend  who  has  returned  to  the  Regiment.  They  were 
given  a  banner,  and  three  days  ago  they  were  up 
where  the  big  advance  took  place.  On  account  of 
their  reputation  and  the  general  understanding  that 
they  were  reserved  for  attack,  the  regiment  must 
have  been  in  the  very  thick  of  it,  and  has  enormous 
losses.  Even  Rockwell  is  chafing  because  he  changed 
too  soon.  "There  is  nothing  like  it,  you  float  across 
the  field,  you  drop,  you  rise  again.  The  sack,  the 
325  extra  rounds,  the  gun — have  no  weight.  And  a 
ball  in  the  head  and  it  is  all  over, — no  pain." 

Avord,  October  2,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  I  am  in  the  Morane  School.  This 
includes  the  baby  Moranes,  the  Bleriots,  the  parasol 
Moranes  and  the  Nieuports.  All,  save  the  last,  are 
monoplanes.  Now  a  monoplane  is  a  more  delicate 
apparatus  to  pilot  than  a  biplane.  Hence  we  go  very 
much  slower,  but  we  end  by  learning  more  and  being 
better  pilots.  In  the  Maurice  Farman,  a  big  biplane, 
one  begins  by  the  double-command-i9i3  model,  sail- 
ing in  the  air  with  a  monitor.  One  goes  alone  on 
the  1913,  after  which  1914-double-command.  Then 
on  the  1914  alone.  All  this  is  done  in  the  air,  and 
since  the  machine  is  big  and  a  fine  planer  it  re- 
sponds slowly  to  the  "commands"  and  is  apparently 
easy  to  handle;  but  in  an  emergency  one  is  not  used 
to  doing  things  fast,  so  trouble  may  follow.  At 
Morane  School  I  began  on  the  baby  and  rolled  and 
rolled,  first  dragging  the  tail,  then  with  the  tail 
elevated,  and  finally  making  little  jumps.  It  looks 
like  a  big  June  bug  or  brown  moth.  Since  it  is  made 
to  go  in  the  air  it  is  extremely  delicate  to  roll  about 
the  fields  on,  and  the  moment  the  tail  ceases  to  be 
directly  behind,  it  swings  about  in  what  they  call 


AVIATION  157 

chevaux  de  bois  (merry-go-rounds).  Thus  one  gets 
a  long  time  of  practice  in  manipulating  the  com- 
mands, till  they  become  second  nature.  We  shall 
next  move  to  a  machine  on  which  we  take  long  leaps 
and  bounds,  then  a  big  Morane  or  Bleriot,  and 
finish  on  the  Nieuport.  The  Test  consists  in  three 
events: — to  go  up  to  2000  metres  and  remain  one 
hour;  to  make  a  ligne  droit  of  60  odd  kilometres;  and 
last,  a  triangle  to  Chartres  and  some  other  place, 
during  which  one  "vol-planes"  down  500  metres 
and  lands  in  any  field.  I  have  taken  eight  spins  of 
ten  minutes  each  so  far  and  still  turn  more  often 
than  I  go  straight. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 


Camp  d'Avord,  October  5,  1915. 

Dear  Papa:  There  is  a  Grotonian,  Farnsworth,  in 
the  Legion  and  I  cannot  find  out  whether  he  is  dead 
or  alive.  The  Legion  was  practically  wiped  out  on 
the  25th  in  Champagne.  I  have  written  to  eight  or 
ten  fellows  but  have  no  answers  as  yet.  Ames  is 
wounded  and  in  a  hospital.  Rockwell  has  letters 
from  two  wounded  chaps.  At  any  rate  Farnsworth, 
though  he  may  be  considered  a  scapegrace  by  Groton, 
is  more  of  a  hero,  dead  or  alive,  than  either  Cowdin  or 
myself;  for  as  a  common  poilu  he  has  been  in  a 
terrific  modern  attack. 

My  old  Escadrille  at  the  Front  has  been  doing 
some  work  bomb-dropping,  I  hear.  One  of  the  ob- 
servers was  wounded  by  an  eclat  and  a  Pilot  had 
his  leg  frozen.  The  German  diplomats  have  put 
one  over  those  of  the  Allies  in  the  Balkans.  Rouma- 
nia  won't  start  and  Bulgaria  has  gone  over  to  the 
enemy,  I  see.  A  fine  letter  that  of  Mr.  Davison.  I 
hope  it  was  copied  by  the  other  papers.  Very  slow 


158         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

this  schooling  is.     Better  to  go  slow  than  be  killed, 
however. 

Camp  d'Avord,  October  10,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  At  last  I  am  getting  under  way  and 
beginning  to  learn  to  fly.  Rose  thought  I  had  a 
hard  hand  and  would  do  better  to  learn  on  a  double- 
command  Maurice  Farman;  so  I  enquired  which 
was  the  most  serious  of  the  M.  F.  Schools  and 
got  permission  from  the  Commandant-de-Centre  to 
change.  The  engine  had  to  be  repaired  in  the  D.  C. 
'13,  so  I  did  not  get  started  until  day  before  yester- 
day, and  I  have  flown  about  an  hour  and  a  quarter 
since.  It  is  all  a  question  of  balance,  as  one  stays 
upright  in  a  canoe,  or  as  one  sails  a  boat,  now  yield- 
ing, now  opposing;  and,  as  is  the  case  of  a  sailboat, 
the  most  difficult  manoeuvre  is  making  a  landing. 

In  the  afternoon  or  late  morning  when  one  goes 
out,  there  are  lots  of  little  flaws  in  the  air  even  if 
there  is  no  wind.  A  constant  slap,  slap,  or  boosting 
up,  or  little  unpleasant  sinking  feelings,  sometimes 
in  the  middle  or  again  on  one  side, — so  that  it  is  a 
constant  preoccupation  to  be  righting  the  balance 
and  easing  off  the  shocks.  But  in  the  evening  (I 
went  up  last  night  about  sundown),  it  is  delicious. 
Never  a'  waver.  We  sped  on  with  even  exactitude 
through  the  atmosphere  as  though  we  were  gliding 
on  a  mirrored  lake,  the  rich  purple  and  crimson  haze 
below  and  before.  Having  risen  to  6  or  800  metres  we 
descended  with  almost  a  dead  engine  in  a-  spiral,  and 
opened  out  again  to  glide  on  to  the  table  land  called 
the  piste. 

No,  I  have  not  got  to  that  state  of  efficiency  in 
which  to  cope  with  spirals  yet;  but  I  can  cope  with 
most  of  the  landings. 


AVIATION  159 

Halloween — 1915. 

I  get  the  idea  that  you — and  Alee  especially — are 
wearing  yourselves  out  worrying  and  praying  about 
the  danger  I  am  in,  or  were  rather,  when  I  was  at  the 
front,  and  will  again  when  I  return.  It's  all  very 
parental  and  I  appreciate  it,  but  I  wish  you  would 
not  because  it  rather  takes  the  edge  off,  and  prin- 
cipally because  it  does  not  benefit  me  or  anyone. 
This  is  the  first  thing  I  have  ever  done  that  has  been 
worth  while,  or  may  ever  do,  and  you  might  just  as 
well  get  the  benefit  of  it  without  the  heart-wringing 
worry.  It's  a  sin  against  herself  to  love  to  that 
extent, — to  be  so  tender-hearted.  Suppose  I  thought 
she  was  getting  sick  with  worry,  and  deserted, — or 
even  took  a  post  as  monitor  at  the  school  after  I  was 
brevte  (quite  an  easy  thing  to  do)  and  never  returned 
to  the  front.  I  flatter  myself  to  think  that  you  both 
are  getting  a  lot  of  fun  out  of  this  all  the  time,  as  you 
did  in  Paris  last  Summer,  and  perhaps  see  things 
and  men  you  would  not  if  I  had  not  joined.  Why 
not  take  the  good  and  leave  the  bad?  It  is  easier  to 
pilot  an  aeroplane  than  drive  an  auto  when  you  get 
on,  and  far  less  dangerous  than  the  autoing  I  used  to 
do  daily  at  Cambridge. 

November,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  For  the  last  two  weeks  now  nearly  I 
have  been  leading  a  luxurious  self-indulgent  life. 
With  a  French  marine  named  St.  Maurice  I  have  a 
room  in  a  court  in  a  tiny  village  near  the  field.  The 
great  luxury  of  soft  beds  and  sheets  has  been  such 
that  combined  with  the  enormous  quantity  of  fresh 
air  we  have,  nothing  can  keep  us  awake  after  dinner. 
'We  rise  at  about  5:30,  cook  chocolate  and  often 
meat,  then  go  up  to  the  field  at  dawn.  Returning 
about  dusk  we  set  about  making  a  fire,  and  having 
stopped  at  the  butcher  on  the  way  down,  we  proceed 


160         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

to  concoct  an  excellent  dinner.  Our  patron,  you  must 
know,  has  a  grocery  shop  so  we  just  drop  in  and  buy 
things  as  we  need  them.  Once  a  week  she  has  fine 
fresh  oysters  straight  from  the  sea,  and  in  the  cellar 
is  some  wine,  nothing  wonderful,  but  six  or  eight 
years  old  and  for  twenty-five  sous  it  is  remarkable. 
The  great  drawback  is  that  I  seem  to  find  no  time 
to  write  or  even  to  read.  As  is  always  the  case  we 
pass  our  time  standing  round  on  the  field,  and  do 
little  or  nothing  besides  talking.  I  finally  was  re- 
leased from  double  command  and  with  four  others 
had  an  antediluvian  '13  model  appareil  all  to  our- 
selves. Luckily  the  engine  was  not  old  and  gave  us 
little  trouble.  But  its  whole  appearance  was  that 
of  the  one-horse  shay  on  the  centenary  of  the  earth- 
quake day.  "It  holds  together  because  it  has  the 
habit,"  was  the  opinion  among  us  eleves.  Whenever 
I  changed  a  piano-cord  I  felt  that  I  ought  to  get  a 
thin  rusty  one  so  as  not  to  over-balance  or  insult  it. 
Day  before  yesterday  it  died  in  harness,  and  just  as 
completely  as  the  shay.  One  of  the  little  tail  rudders 
is  the  only  distinguishable  feature.  The  rest  is 
debris  in  the  general  outline  of  an  aeroplane.  The 
imprint  or  phantom  of  an  appareil  was  what  made 
me  recognize  the  spot  as  I  flew  over  it  yesterday.  It 
wasn't  the  fault  of  age,  that  accident  however.fJThe 
poor  fellow  driving  it  pique* d  from  some  300  metres 
and  came  down  vertically.  Not  a  thing  to  do  with 
biplanes — they  get  "engaged"  and  it  is  very'difficult 
to  change  their  direction, — so  he  collided|withfthe 
earth.  It  makes  me  a  little  reticent  about|telling 
you,  for  you  say  it  might  just  as  well  have  been^me. 
I  did  piquer  a  bit  steep  on  it  the  evening  before.^  But 
I  am  past  that  danger  now.  Besides  I  have  moved 
on  to  the  '14  model  machines  which  are  newer  and 
far  more  responsive  to  handle.  Your  loving 

VICTOR. 


AVIATION  161 

Avord,  December  6,  1915. 

Dear  Alee:  I  flew  this  afternoon — quite  a  rare 
occurrence  during  these  few  last  weeks.  It  was 
clear  weather  for  a  wonder, — at  least  the  sun  shone 
out  between  the  beaten  clouds,  and  a  stiff  breeze  was 
blowing.  "Ca  draillonne  enormement"  said  the  fel- 
low, as  he  got  out  of  the  body,  when  finally  I  had  my 
turn,  "  et  le  gauchissement  ne  repond  pas.  Regarde 
comme  c'est  mou!"  and  he  twanged  the  twisted  wire 
cable.  I  buckled  the  strap  round  my  hips.  " 'Ca  vai " 
he  shouted  to  tell  me  there  were  no  Avions  coming 
up  behind  and  I  opened  the  gas  and  started  off  into 
the  wind.  The  machine  left  the  ground  almost 
immediately  and  I  had  to  hold  it  down  to  keep 
headway.  Then  it  began  to  buck,  squirm  and 
wriggle.  It  slid  off  to  the  right,  to  the  left,  took  a 
short  plunge  downward  and  then  attempted  to  rear. 
The  earth,  a  scrawny  tree  or  two,  looked  near  and 
menacing,  but  the  gauchissement  responded  very 
well.  As  I  gained  a  little  height  (75-100  metres)  I 
felt  more  at  home.  "My!  what  a  pleasure  to  see  the 
mountains  again  after  that  monotonous  plain/' 
For,  from  a  little  height,  already  the  slightly  va- 
riegated horizon  stood  out  a  deep  rich  blue.  It 
added  the  necessary  contrast  to  bring  out  the  soft 
silver  grays  and  hazy  browns  of  the  land  with  the 
baby  blues  and  faint  pinks  of  the  sky  and  clouds. 
My  thoughts  were  interrupted  by  a  ratte  or  two  of 
the  engine,  and  I  gave  a  casual  glance  at  the  field 
under  me — -in  case  the  engine  should  stop  and  I  must 
come  down.  Heading  towards  the  artificial  village 
of  artillery,  I  was  skirting  the  edge  of  the  camp  with- 
out advancing  at  all.  Slowly  it  seemed  I  was  moving 
sidewise  always  facing  the  sinking  sun.  "I  never 
saw  that  before,"  thought  I.  In  the  valley  before 
me  the  little  stream  had  flooded  the  low  ground,  and 
there,  depicted  in  the  little  patches  of  water  were  the 


162         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

pinky,  pale-blue  clouds.  I  turned  and  swooped 
along  with  the  wind.  The  buffeting  was  much  less 
now,  merely  a  rise  and  fall  like  a  ground  swell,  and 
the  land  was  racing  by  underneath.  Here  were  big 
areas  of  hardwood  forests, — gray  individual  trees 
sticking  up  all  over  out  of  rich  copper-colored  foliage. 
The  foolish  little  winding  creek  with  poplars  like 
spear  heads  stuck  along  its  course.  A  funny  little 
house  with  yellow  gravel  and  lawn  about  it.  Then,  a 
pasture  and  patchwork  of  cultivated  fields.  These 
looked  like  handsome  well-worn  carpets  with  the 
warp  shown  up  in  places,  green  against  gray.  Now  I 
leaned  hard  to  the  right  and  came  back  into  the  wind, 
heading  to  the  ten  little  match  boxes  (the  M.  F. 
hangars)  where  white  bits  of  paper  were  ranged 
about.  When  I  seemed  about  near  enough  I  shut 
off  the  engine  and  pointed  down,  and  but  for  the 
strap  would  have  been  lifted  out  of  the  seat  by  the 
sharpness  of  my  descent.  I  pulled  it  over  to  the 
right,  then  eased  it,  and  in  my  intentness  actually 
stopped  humming  some  innocent  air.  The  ground, 
the  shrubs  and  the  grass  came  up,  up,  for  I  was  just 
above  the  ground.  The  machine  lost  its  momentum 
and  sank  down.  I  must  post  this.  Best  love  till 
another  day. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 


Avord,  Jan.  6,  1916. 

Dear  Alee:  Hall,  an  American  who  has  been  fly- 
ing in  Cowdin's  Escadrille,  is  here  as  monitor  for  a 
month's  rest.  He  is  a  thin-faced,  keen-looking  fel- 
low. I  have  a  letter  from  Uncle  Willy;  he  is  at 
Paris  (25  Champs  Elysees),  I  suppose  you  know,  and 
is  having  a  rush  order  put  through  on  his  wooden 
leg.  I  am  now  enjoying  the  companionship  (and 


AVIATION  163 

care)  of  a  small  black  and  white  puppy.  It  just 
dropped  in  and  stayed  one  night,  and  since  it  has  a 
good  head  and  is  clean,  besides  being  coveted  by  my 
friends,  I  keep  it.  The  horrible  thought  has  now 
come  to  me  that  it  may  grow  to  the  size  of  a 
St.  Bernard! 

I  enjoy  Papa's  article  on  Wilson  hugely,  and  relish 
the  Tribunes  which  he  often  sends  me;  it  really 
keeps  me  a  bit  in  touch  with  America,  even  at  three 
weeks  old.  I'm  much  pleased  and  interested  to  see 
T.  R,  being  pushed  by  events  to  the  front. 

January  7. 

My,  this  seems  an  empty,  selfish  letter.  However, 
I  suppose  you  wanted  to  know  what  I  was  doing. 

Oh,  by  the  way,  would  you  pick  out  one  of  the  best 
of  those  souvenirs  or  trinkets  and  send  it  to  Bishop  as 
a  kind  of  Xmas  or  Easter  present.  Whatever  you 
think  the  most  interesting,  except,  of  course,  the 
German  bomb  which  belongs  to  Papa. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 


Hotel  Crillon,  Paris, 

January  18,  1916. 

Dear  Alee:  Well,  I  got  my  brevet  a  week  or  ten  days 
ago.  Most  unfavorable  weather  conditions,  but  still 
I  was  the  first  to  be  brevte  in  January.  Since  coming 
here  I  have  rushed  about  and  seen  half  a  dozen 
varieties  of  people.  From  Duffours  and  Bianchi, 
through  Kisling,  the  St.  Maurices,  right  up  to  M. 
Boutroux  and  M.  Breteuil.  Finally  on  Saturday,  I 
met  Cowdin  and  Prince  who  had  just  arrived.  I 
lunched  with  them  on  Sunday  in  Company  with 
some  big  guns  in  French  and  American  aviation,  and 
then  returned  to  Avord  only  to  get  my  marching 
orders  to  the  R.  G.  A.  Yesterday  the  Princes  took 


164         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

me  to  lunch  with  the  Commandant  Belaut  who  is  in 
charge  of  all  the  new  machines  that  are  supplied  to 
the  Army.  After  lunch  we  went  out  to  Issy  le 
Moulineau  where  the  new  model  improvements  and 
readjustments  are  tried  out.  They  surpass  the 
imagination.  There  were  three  or  four  models  of 
great  size  for  a  competition,  each  about  28  metres 
from  tip  to  tip  with  three  huge  motors;  one  could 
carry  enough  gasolene  to  go  to  Berlin  and  back. 
Also  a  little  humming-bird  car,  which  climbs  to 
3500  metres  in  the  incredible  time  of  14  minutes!  It 
looks  as  though  we  can  put  the  Am.  Aviation  through 
this  deal.  All  those  who  were  indifferent  are  now 
more  sympathetic.  Besnard  appointed  a  Lieutenant 
in  his  office  to  look  out  for  our  interests. 

Hotel  Crillon,  Paris, 
January  21,  1916. 

Dear  Alee:  Up  and  down,  back  and  forth.  Yester- 
day we  understood  the  American  Escadrille  was 
formed  and  we  were  to  be  united  today.  We  plugged 
about  at  Bourget  and  found  the  Capitaine  du  Re- 
serve General  <T Aviation,  who  said  he  knew  nothing  of 
it  and  sent  us  off  to  our  respective  groups, — Thaw  to 
Caudron,  Cowdin  to  Nieuport,  Prince  to  Voisin,  and 
myself  to  Maurice.  That  means  Prince  and  I  have 
to  go  to  some  God-forsaken  village  near  Senlis  and 
wait  till  the  order  comes  through — if  it  does — ,  and 
the  ministry  does  not  fall  as  it  did  last  autumn  when 
all  had  been  arranged. 

Now  I  just  drop  in  on  Jaccaci  and  meet  a  young 
Aviation  Lieutenant,  who  is  on  Maurice  and  invites 
me  to  go  on  his  Escadrille  in  three  or  four  days  time 
when  he  is  back  at  the  Front.  "We  need  pilots,"  he 
says,  "and  I'd  rather  take  you  than  people  I've  never 
heard  of.  Don't  you  want  to  come?"  Don't  I? 
Have  a  machine  to  myself,  fly  all  I  want!  But  I  can- 


AVIATION  165 

not  throw  the  American  business  over-board  at  this 
time. 

I  am  dining  with  Cowdin,  Prince,  and  the  rest. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

February  15,  1916. 

Dear  Alee:  ...  I  am  mildly  bored  as  usual  out 
here  for  I  have  not  flown  or  rolled  on  a  machine  for 
over  two  weeks.  The  weather  is  one  round  of  rain 
and  wind.  On  the  two  or  three  fine  days  the  Moranes 
were  smashed  up.  However,  I  talk  and  think  flying 
so  much  with  Norman  Prince  that  I  feel  I  am  learn- 
ing just  the  same.  I  am  really  expert  in  the  pilotage 
of  the  Nieuport. 

I  hear  young  William  James,  the  artist,  is  in 
town, — will  try  to  see  him.  Love  to  Papa. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

Division  Nieuport, 

February  20,  1916. 

Dear  Chanler:  After  waiting  about  some  three 
weeks  now  I  have  at  last  got  a  whack  at  the  ma- 
chines. I  was  not  sure  I  could  get  away  with  it, 
having  never  been  in  a  parasol  before;  but  it  went 
splendidly  and  I  landed  well.  The  next  fellow,  as  I 
remember,  broke  it  up,  so  I  was  put  on  Nieuport, 
and,  knowing  that  all  the  risk  that  I  ran  was  a 
capotage  in  landing  or  leaving,  I  pulled  on  the  motor 
full  force  and  sailed  away.  It  is  a  beautifully  bal- 
anced machine  and  responds  in  a  twinkling  to  the 
commands.  Besides  one  has  a  great  feeling  of 
security  and  strength  in  its  robust  form  and  power- 
ful motor.  My!  it  is  heavy  for  its  size.  To  land  well 
one  must  let  it  fall  from  about  a  yard  and  a  half, 
taking  care  that  the  tail  is  well  down  at  the  time. 


i66         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

This  afternoon  (the  second  time  I  have  flown  it,  my 
progress  being  greatly  impeded  by  numerous  capo- 
tages  on  the  part  of  my  class-mates) — I  tried 'some 
banked  curves  (virages  a  la  vertical).  Of  course  I  had 
understood  beforehand  how  it  was  done,  yet  the 
experience  was  a  novel  and  almost  uncomfortable 
sensation  because  I  am  not  accustomed  to  it.  I 
never  did  much  of  this  while  learning  on  the  M.  F., 
because  it  is  such  a  big  'bus  that  45°  seems  an  awful 
lot;  but,  on  the  Nieuport,  if  you  don't  bank  on  the 
sharp  curves  it's  so  small  it  slides  outward  and  the 
side  wind  is  most  unpleasant.  The  tail  flippers  of 
this  fish  has,  like  any  other  aeroplane,  a  rudder  for 
direction,  and  a  movable  plane  for  depth.  But  of 
course  if  it  is  turned  over  side-wise  it  is  the  rudder 
which  serves  as  depth  and  the  plan  de  profondeur 
as  direction.  The  first  time,  I  put  my  hand  over  for 
direction,  and  then,  as  it  keeled  round,  pulled  on  the 
manche  a  ballage.  Ordinarily  this  would  make  the 
boat  go  up,  but  here,  you  see,  it  pulled  the  nose  in- 
ward. It  came  over  so  fast  that  I  wanted  to  climb 
on  to  the  upper  side  of  the  fuselage.  So  I  straightened 
out  and  righted.  Not  having  reduced  the  motor — 
good  precaution  to  diminish  disagreeable  sensa- 
tions— I  had  the  feel  of  the  air  working  hard  on  the 
upper  wing  surfaces  by  the  increased  speed.  I 
pique7 d  a  little  to  straighten  out.  It's  just  the  sucking 
tension,  or  resistance,  a  sail  that  has  fallen  overboard 
gives,  and  one  takes  it  in  with  headway.  The  landing 
does  not  seem  to  me  to  be  as  hard  as  I  was  led  to 
believe.  I  don't  say  I  won't  capoter:  everyone  does 
some  time  or  other.  Even  the  Captain  took  out  the 
new  Hispano  today  and  made  a  summersault  before 
leaving  the  ground, — wheels  stuck  in  the  ground. 
Wheel  but  there  is  mud  out  here.  Imagine  a  level 
ground  a  mile  and  a  half  long  by  a  mile  broad,  some 
of  it  planted  in  winter  wheat,  but  some  merely 


AVIATION  167 

ploughed  and  harrowed.  With  the  rain,  or  the  occa- 
sional inch  of  snow,  it  becomes  a  wonderful,  cold, 
sticky  consistency.  Even  the  two  or  three  little  dogs 
who  stand  about  with  the  pilotes  can  be  seen  holding 
one  little  paw  up  after  another  to  warm  it. 

On  windless  days  the  penguin  or  trois  pattes  wanders 
about.  It  is  a  Morane  with  a  three  cylinder  engine. 
Everybody  takes  an  interest  in  it  for  the  amuse- 
ment it  affords.  Never  yet  have  I  heard  of  a 
man  who  did  not,  on  his  first  start,  make  half-a- 
dozen  chevaux  de  bois,  like  a  kitten  chasing  its  tail. 
Yesterday,  or  was  it  the  day  before? — a  fellow 
started  out  famously,  tail  up  straight  as  a  dart;  when 
he  wavered  and  made  a  whirlwind  of  circles.  Slow- 
ing the  engine,  he  stopped,  and  made  a  fresh  start. 
This  time  he  was  so  violent  that  the  machine  ended 
up  with  its  nose  in  the  ground  and  its  tail  pointed 
heavenwards.  The  whole  personnel  had  gathered,  for 
everyone  knew  beforehand  that  this  would  end  that 
very  frisky  behavior,  while  the  poor  fellow  climbed 
down  from  his  uncomfortable  position  in  the  fuselage. 
The  number  of  machines  in  active  service  in  this 
school  has  been  greatly  reduced.  One  day  ten  were 
broken  and  there  never  are  less  than  three  capotages 
a  day. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

Division  Nieuport,  Feb.  21,  1916. 

Dear  Alee:  At  last  I  am  in  a  better  frame  of  mind 
and  can  write  you  a  more  exhaustive  letter  on  our 
situation.  For  the  last  two-and-a-half  weeks  I  have 
been  out  here  (ij^  hours  from  Paris)  waiting  to  fly, 
and  incidentally  following,  or  rather  taking,  a  strong 
advisory  part  in  the  preparation  for  our  future  wel- 
fare. 

Well,  finally  Sunday  morning  it  was  fine  and  not 


168         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

windy.  By  saying  strongly  enough,  "  Why,  of  course 
I  can  fly  the  parasol!"  (a  Morane  monoplane  with 
the  plane  over-head)  I  was  given  permission  to  climb 
in:  the  other  pupils  in  my  class  had  broken  it  on  the 
previous  occasion.  The  mecano  whirled  the  helice 
and  I  sped  down  the  field.  It  was  glorious!  I  had 
not  flown  for  nearly  a  month.  But  the  excess  of 
power,  I  was  not  accustomed  to:  I  did  not  feel  that 
I  had  the  machine  in  hand.  However,  I  made  three 
or  four  virages.  It  responds  delightfully,  easily,  and 
reducing  the  motor  I  came  towards  the  field.  "It 
seems  a  shame  to  smash  up  such  an  elegant  bird,"  I 
thought,  for  the  landing  is  the  crucial  moment. 
But — je  me  suis  bien  debrouille, — and  came  down  like 
a  feather.  I  had  a  passenger-ride  on  Nieuport,  and 
yesterday  afternoon  took  a  turn  on  the  large  variety 
called  le  23  metre,  meaning  it  has  23  square  metres 
of  surface  portant.  One  certainly  gets  plenty  of  wind 
in  it,  especially  on  the  turns,  if  the  motor  is  not  re- 
duced; and  it  responds  so  quickly  and  easily  that  I 
pushed  the  stick  about  with  my  little  finger.  After 
the  Farman,  it's  like  sailing  a  swift  little  race-boat 
when  one  has  been  used  to  something  on  the  order  of 
the  "Wild  Duck."  In  a  moment  I  was  at  100  metres 
and  nearly  lost  the  field.  I  turned,  circled  and 
finally  landed  in  the  far  end  of  the  field.  With  a 
bounce,  to  be  sure;  but  that's  a  detail,  for  I  was 
immensely  satisfied.  "Who  in  the  deuce  has  been 
putting  into  my  head  that  the  Nieuport  is  so  difficult, 
so  dangerous?"  I  thought,  "it's  just  like  any  other 
machine  as  long  as  you're  careful — only  better." 
And  yet  it's  called  the  casse  gueule.  People  are  not 
careful,  however.  This  morning  I  did  not  go  out, 
for  my  zingue  was  smashed,  and  this  afternoon  it's 
rain,  snow  and  wind.  But  to  return  to  the  other 
end  of  the  matter,  there  are  six  of  us  ready  to  go  to 
the  front  now,  including  myself.  Barres  has  promised 


AVIATION  169 

to  give  us  all  the  Bebe  Nieuports  (we  do  not  buy  any- 
thing) and  we  shall  be  an  Escadrille  de  chasse.  N.  B. 
Up  to  now  there  have  been  no  Escadrille  of  Bebes, 
these  being  generally  only  given  to  old  pilotes.  Now 
we  must  have  a  French  Captain.  But  first,  as  to  the 
people  who  are  running  this.  They  are,  of  course, 
the  three  you  know, — Thaw,  Cowdin  and  Prince. 
Thaw,  though  the  youngest,  has  perhaps  more 
weight,  being  a  sous-Lieutenant.  Thaw  wants  his 
old  chief  at  his  Caudron  Escadrille,  Capitaine 
Thenault,  a  charming  fellow,  but  young.  Balsan, 
after  being  asked  to  look  into  the  matter,  gave  some 
uncertain  answer.  Thaw  wants  him  if  it's  physically 
possible.  Meanwhile  we  wait,  and  if  nothing  is  done, 
we  greatly  fear  that  Thenault  may  be  definitely 
refused  us  and  some  "service"  Capitaine  be  dumped 
upon  us  to  make  our  life  unpleasant. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

Plessis,  March  23,  1916. 

Dear  Papa:  I  was  over-joyed  to  get  your  letters. 
They  came  all  in  a  bunch.  On  the  strength  of  what 
you  said  about  M.  Chevrillon  I  went  out  and  lunched 
with  him  yesterday, — a  very  charming  family  affair. 
He  showed  me  some  of  his  works  of  art,  especially 
the  Chinese  and  Japanese  paintings  and  little  ob- 
jects. He  has  such  a  sympathy  for  them  that  he 
made  me  swell  with  enthusiasm.  Delicious  little 
carved  toad  buttons.  They  quite  took  the  edge  off 
his  two  or  three  French  eighteenth  century  masters 
in  the  " gute  stube"  He  sends  his  kindest  regards  and 
pointed  out  to  me  with  pride  that  he  had  two  or  three 
of  your  books  in  the  Holy  of  Holies, — a  little  book- 
shelf beside  his  bed. 

.  .  .  Here  at  Plessis  I  have  been  flying  the  "baby." 
(Alee  wanted  to  know  what  I  meant.)  The  Nieuport 


i7o         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

machines  are  all  much  smaller  and  faster  than  the 
Farmans  and  Voisins,  etc.  The  Bebe  is  the  smallest 
and  latest  model.  It  is  a  monoplane  and  is  said  to 
be  the  fastest  in  the  French  Army.  It  is  a  most 
delightful  machine  and  responds  so  quickly  and  pre- 
cisely. Can  you  figure  moving  at  will  in  three 
dimensions?  Well,  Monday  I  went  out  for  the  fifth 
time  on  it,  and  climbing  to  1000  metres  I  looped  the 
loop  a  couple  of  times.  Now  for  a  really  good 
atterrissage,  I  thought,  as  I  approached  the  ground, 
and  began  gauging  my  distance.  I  got  over  the  spot 
just  right  and  all  would  have  been  well  but  I  was  care- 
less with  the  "mamette  des  gaz"  and  the  shock  of  the 
landing  started  the  motor,  so  I  bounced  off  and  bent 
a  wing  before  stopping  it.  I  never  felt  a  sicker  man 
than  when  I  trudged  over  to  the  waiting  group. 
"A  clear  case  of  over-confidence,"  they  said,  and 
cursed  me  for  breaking  it.  For  it  will  take  a  couple 
of  days  to  repair.  Don't  let  this  be  an  occasion  for 
you  and  Alee  to  write  me:  "Please  be  careful."  It's 
the  first  bad  smash  I've  made  and  I  have  six  months 
pilotage  now.  Also  the  far-famed  looping  is  much 
easier  than  for  a  street  boy  to  make  a  hand-spring. 
Nothing  to  it. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

Luxeuil  les  Bains, 

April  20,  1916. 

Dear  Alee:  Off  at  last!  I  got  a  batch  of  very  cheery 
home  letters  from  you.  Papa,  and  Grandmamma 
which  I  read  on  the  train  going  out  Monday  night, 
after  a  kind  of  wind-up  dinner  of  Americans.  We 
travelled  all  night  in  a  ravitaillement  train,  and  arrived 
finally  at  a  little  hillside  village,  with  a  glimpse  of 
Reims  cathedral  amid  the  rolling  Champagne  slopes. 
There  we  found  some  one  had  made  a  mistake,  so 


AVIATION  171 

we  were  directed  to  Luxeuil.  We  passed  through  a 
suburb  of  Reims  by  auto  and  spent  the  night  at 
Epernay.  Plenty  of  inhabitants  and  children  playing 
in  the  streets  at  Reims,  only  the  roads  have  cloth 
screens  running  for  miles  on  their  northern  sides,  so 
that  the  Germans  may  not  see  the  traffic.  The 
country  everywhere  is  beautiful,  at  this  season  espe- 
cially. All  the  next  day  by  train  we  followed  the 
Marne  till  it  became  a  creek  no  bigger  than  the 
Motherkill,  and  without  missing  trains  at  the 
changes — most  lucky — reached  Lure,  where  we  met 
the  Captain.  I  should  have  said  we — means  Nor- 
man, Rockwell,  McConnell  and  myself.  Thaw  and 
Cowdin  are  coming  later.  The  Captain  took  us  to  the 
field,  a  fine  one  with  numerous  huge  hangars  and 
cabins  in  construction — more  like  grain  elevators  or 
shipping  docks  than  anything  I  have  yet  seen.  There 
we  were  introduced  to  Captain  Happe.  The  latter 
is  a  by-word  in  aviation,  and  incredible  are  the  stories 
told  about  him  and  his  bombardement  escadrilles. 
In  the  twilight  of  his  shack,  scenting  of  new  cut 
spruce,  he  welcomed  us  all,  and  standing  before  the 
window,  delivered  an  impromptu  lecture  on  the 
advantages  of  accompanying  bombardment  ma- 
chines. "I  know  escadrille  de  chasse  do  not  like  to 
accompany  us;  but  it  is  my  belief  that  they  would 
find  more  game  if  they  did.  Now  if  you  had  been 
with  us  on  my  last  trip  I  should  not  have  this  sorry 
task,"  and  he  waved  his  hand  to  the  table  where  lay 
a  neat  pile  of  yellow  envelopes  looking  like  boxes  of 
wedding  cake.  "Croix  de  guerre  and  letters  to  the 
relatives  of  the  eight  fellows  killed  on  my  last  raid." 
I  thought  his  eye  glittered  as  he  related  the  satisfac- 
tion of  his  last  victim.  I  believe  he  prides  himself  on 
having  lost  as  many  pilotes  as  any  other  two  Captains 
in  France.  Anyway  we  have  no  fear,  for  he  has  been 
forbidden  to  cross  the  line  except  by  night,  until  he  is 


172         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

given  new  and  faster  machines,  by  which  time  we 
shall  be  called  elsewhere.  Near  our  cabin-bureau  we 
found  the  autos  of  our  escadrille  which  gave  us  a 
tangible  idea  of  the  realization  of  our  hopes.  Motor 
busses  and  trucks  with  gray  bodies  and  brass  head 
lights  were  lined  along  the  field.  I  think  there  were 
twenty,  counting  two  voitures  legeres. 

We  are  finely  situated  in  this  ville-d'eaux — eat  at 
the  best  hotel  in  town  with  our  officers,  live  in  a 
"villa"  on  the  hill  with  an  ordnance  to  clean  up,  and 
bathe  and  drink  hot  waters.  Meanwhile  we  wait 
for  the  Avions  to  be  shipped.  I  would  you  were  here 
to  enjoy  the  countryside,  the  blossoming  fruit  trees, 
and  the  distant  snow-capped  hills.  The  town  is  old 
and  picturesque — Maison  du  Cardinal  Jouffroy— 
Maison  de  Franqois  /,  etc.  And  this  morning  I  saw 
a  stork  circling  round  and  round.  In  a  couple  of 
days  we  shall  have  an  order  to  circulate  in  the  autos 
and  a  baby  or  two  to  practice.  What  an  ideal  chance 
for  sight-seeing  in  the  neighborhood,  if  only  soldiers 
took  an  interest  in  history  and  architecture.  But 
they  don't.  McConnell  says  he  finds  the  war  quite  a 
fashionable  pastime.  He  winters  at  Pau,  stops  off  a 
week  or  two  at  Paris,  and  now,  just  as  the  season 
begins,  goes  to  the  summer  resort. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

Luxeuil,  April  30,  1916. 

Dear  Papa:  I  have  just  received  two  splendid 
letters  from  you, — one  about  Chanler  and  the  other 
about  the  war  and  its  prospects.  As  to  the  latter,  one 
is  inclined  to  think  that  five  years  more  is  stretching 
it,  because  of  the  scarcity  of  materials  and  eatables. 
Here,  as  usual,  I  spend  a  care-free  idle  life,  hoping 
and  wishing  and  worrying  about  that  which  does  not 
arrive.  In  this  case,  the  aeroplanes.  We  have,  how- 


AVIATION  173 

ever,  made  two  beautiful  trips  in  the  Vosges.  On  the 
first  it  was  still  raining,  so  we  were  not  able  to  get  the 
full  benefit  of  the  scenery.  At  Belfort  we  nearly  had 
a  calamity  for  it  was  discovered  that  the  Captain's 
playful  wolf  dog  had  chewed  up  the  official  red  paper 
pass  which  allowed  us  to  circulate.  It  was,  however, 
patched  together  and  glued  on  celluloid;  so  we  con- 
tinued, passed  the  "  de  Belfort,"  stopping  at 
the  various  aviation  fields,  and  continued  into  the 
reconquered  Alsace.  German  names  on  the  sign 
posts  and  in  the  walls;  but  bunches  of  French  troops 
and  little  placards  "cave  30  hommes"  "cave  50  hom- 
mes"  " \me  Escadron"  etc.  The  main  road  here  was 
barred  by  day  being  in  sight  of  the  enemy.  (I  should 
also  say  at  every  village  were  toll  gates  with  sen- 
tinels who  took  our  number,  etc.)  we  therefore  made 
a  detour  into  the  foothills, — mighty  precipitous  they 
were — and  descended  into  Thann.  All  the  eastern 
side  of  the  Vosges  seems  to  drop  "d  picque"  into  the 
Rhine  basin,  while  on  this  side  they  rise  very  gently. 
We  wound  among  vineyards  and  broom  and  were 
only  bored  because  the  pretty  views  of  valleys  with 
blossoming  cherry  trees  and  the  distant  Harts  forest 
were  perpetually  cut  off  by  artificial  screens  (to  hide 
us  from  the  Germans).  I  should  have  liked  to  stop 
and  wander  in  Thann  but  the  Captain  wanted  to  get 
home.  It  is  such  a  picturesque  town  full  of  chasseurs- 
d-piedsj  cyclists,  etc.,  besides  the  inhabitants,  speak- 
ing the  German  patois.  The  signs  written  in  Ger- 
man, crossed  out  or  patched  up  into  French.  Lots  of 
women  and  children  despite  the  marked  signs  of 
bombardment  in  the  main  street.  We  climbed  slowly 
up  the  valley,  and  passed  into  two  or  three  small  vil- 
lages, noting  little  green  patches  of  flat  land. 

The  little  railways  soon  stopped,  and  we  met 
camions  and  horse  teams  toiling  up  the  curved  road, 
now  hedged  in  by  a  tall  spruce  forest.  There  is  even 


174         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

an  air  line  (buckets  swinging  on  cables)  over  the 
mountain  to  facilitate  the  ravitaillement.  Passing 
through  a  tunnel — the  ancient  boundary — we  came 
out  to  the  French  water-shed  and  the  source  of  the 
Moselle.  Little  white  houses  squatting  on  the  slopes, 
with  hillocks  rising  behind.  It  was  very  striking 
how  unlike  the  two  sides  were.  The  eastern  with  its 
Jagged  summits  and  ridges  standing  out  in  bare 
brown  rock,  and  the  western  with  its  rounded  off  and 
entirely  wooded  slopes.  We  had  thought  of  return- 
ing by  the  Ballon  d 'Alsace;  but  the  snow,  of  which  we 
now  saw  patches,  deterred  us.  Rolling  gently  down 
from  one  valley  to  another  we  soon  reached  broader 
meadows  again,  with  cherry  trees  to  Luxeuil. 

Yesterday  we  went  to  attend  the  funeral  of  a 
pilote.  We  went  to  Gerardmer  and  thence  on  to 
lunch  with  an  escadrille  in  a  nearby  town.  It  was  an 
even  more  delightful  trip,  principally  perhaps  be- 
cause it  was  a  very  fine  day  and  we  had  no  top  on  the 
motor  to  spoil  the  view.  First  the  low  lands  and 
foothills,  with  the  white  fruit  trees  and  buttercups 
everywhere;  then  the  narrow  valleys  with  little 
streams,  gray  trees  budding  on  new  leaves,  and 
finally  Gerardmer  Lake  with  fir  covered  hills  coming 
down  to  the  water's  edge.  Lots  of  swagger  aviation 
officers  with  glittering  decorations,  and  a  fiery  young 
Alpine  Lieutenant  who  marshalled  his  demi-section 
of  sallow  youths  about  the  bier.  It  was  a  short, 
impressive  ceremony  in  the  little  grave-yard  on  a 
side  hill,  and  once  over,  we  continued  to  the  nearby 
flying  corps.  We  lunched — messed,  I  suppose  I 
should  say — with  the  officers  there,  and  scrumptious 
food  we  had,  the  proprietor  of  one  of  the  best- 
known  restaurants  at  Geneva  being  the  cook,  we 
were  told.  Cigarettes,  liqueurs,  a  view  of  the 
champs — very  small — and  the  latest  model  Farman, 
which  had  fresh  bullet  holes  from  the  morning's 


AVIATION  175 

encounter.  And  we  returned.  We  took  another 
route,  leading  through  the  Val-d'Ajol,  very  noted,  I 
believe,  for  its  gorge-like  sides.  Little  yellow  jonquils 
and  some  blue  flowers  covering  every  grassy  slope. 

April  30. 

As  though  to  aggravate  our  chagrin  at  not  having 
the  'planes,  the  Boche  came  all  the  way  over  and 
dropped  bombs  on  our  field.  It  is  65  kilometres  back, 
so  with  half  a  chance  we  could  catch  him  before  he 
returned.  The  first  day  he  killed  one  of  our  auto 
drivers,  but  since  then  he  has  done  no  damage, 
though  he  dropped  incendiary  bombs  on  the  hospitals 
this  morning.  Our  little  75  blazes  away  at  him  at 
dawn  when  he  comes,  and  we  hang  out  of  the  win- 
dows of  our  villa  on  the  hill,  and  discuss  his  ap- 
proximate height.  There  was  a  big  funeral,  of  course, 
for  the  poor  poilu,  which  lasted  hours  in  church,  and 
all  of  Luxeuil  turned  out.  "It  must  have  cost  a  lot 
to1  have  such  a  mass,"  the  lady  of  the  cafe  told  us 
afterwards.  "The  state  and  the  service  de  sante 
bear  the  expense." 

By  the  way,  please  get  those  photos  I  took  of 
Farnsworth  and  Sokona  and  send  them  to  Mrs.  Al- 
fred Loomis,  Tuxedo  Park. 

I  often  wonder  what  this  game  of  mine  is  leading 
to.  Nothing  but  a  dyed-in-the-wool  ne'er  do  weel, 
I  suspect.  All  war  is  a  tumbling  down  of  the  estab- 
lished order.  Yes,  I  have  a  paint  box;  but  somehow 
I  was  awfully  diffident  and  finicky  the  last  time  I 
tried. 

Love  to  all. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

Luxeuil,  May  10,  1916. 

Dear  Alee:  I  have  just  received  a  delayed  lot  of 
splendid  letters  from  home.  The  Great  Robbery 


176         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

among  others.  It  seems  as  though  we  came  in  for  all 
the  glory  without  a  great  loss.  It  substantiates 
splendidly  your  theory  about  not  having  real  silver 
about.  Rockwell  foamed  at  the  mouth  when  I  read 
him  what  Papa  said  on  the  Morlae  subject.  "That's 
just  the  point,  he  did  not  write  a  word  of  the  article. 
The  -  -  can't  even  talk  English  correctly,  let  alone 
write  it!  The  story  is  a  most  inaccurate  jumble  of 
what  happened  the  winter  of  1914  at  ." 

It  appears  I  gave  him  too  much  credit,  he  has  not 
even  the  croix  de  guerre. 

Well,  the  Avions  have  arrived:  the  first  batch 
came  by  train  the  latter  part  of  last  week,  and  the 
second,  among  which  was  mine,  on  Sunday  night. 
All  yesterday  was  taken  up  in  mounting  and  adjust- 
ing. This  morning  I  took  my  maiden  voyage. 
Amazing  little  things  (you  would  call  them  big 
perhaps,  because  one  takes  up  more  room  than  a 
couple  of  limousines;  but,  as  compared  to  an  average 
aeroplane,  which  needs  a  circus  tent  for  shelter,  they 
are  small)  and  so  neat  and  clean-limbed,  the  eight  of 
them  do  not  half  fill  up  one  shed.  Most  of  them 
have  war  paint  on, — rather  handsome,  savage  with- 
out being  garish.  It  is  mottled  light  and  dark  brown 
with  light  and  dark  green  imitation  of  landscape, 
the  same  type  that  they  paint  camions,  tents,  can- 
nons, etc.  Mine,  however,  happens  to  be  a  cream- 
color  solid,  something  new  they  are  trying  out;  but 
it  gets  dirty  and  needs  to  be  washed  daily.  The  tools 
for  the  mechanics  have  arrived,  so  we  are  all  right 
except  for  spare  parts,  of  which  we  have  plenty  to 
be  sure,  but  none  fit,  as  they  are  for  the  old  model 
Nieuport.  It  seemed  almost  odd  to  be  in  air  again: 
in  fact  I  made  two  rather  poor  landings,  and  in  re- 
dressing from  a  steep  virage  it  responded  too  quickly, 
like  a  tender-mouthed  horse,  and  backed  all  over  the 
place.  The  Vosges  look  much  finer  from  a  little 


AVIATION 


177 


height,  say  twelve  hundred  metres,  than  from  the 
ground.  I  got  my  motor  throttled  down  so  that  it 
would  almost  take  care  of  itself,  and  then  pulled  out 
my  camera  and  snapped  them.  It  may  be  blurred; 
if  not  I'll  send  it  to  you.  I  have  yet  to  get  my  In- 
struments de  bord  properly  fitted  out.  It's  quite  a 
job.  The  cockpit  is  so  small  that  unless  one  takes 
great  care  they  take  up  all  the  room  and  hide  the 
gasolene  gauge,  etc.  Also  the  machine-gun  must  go 
on  the  upper  plane,  and  that  must  be  regulated  so 
that  I  can  aim  and  also  reload  without  inconvenience. 
Two  or  three  days  ought  to  see  me  ready.  There 
are  lots  of  skylarks  on  the  field,  so  on  account  of  the 
way  they  climb  in  air  I  propose  to  call  my  baby 
Valouette. 

Of  course,  since  our  machines  have  come,  nary  a 
Boche.  Occasionally  one  is  signalle^  but  not  located. 
This  evening  one  was  seen  over  Lure.  They  even 
blew  the  pompier  horns  here.  It  turned  out  to  be  only 
Kiffin  Rockwell  at  a  higher  altitude  than  usual. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

Luxeuil,  May  14,  1916. 

Dear  Alee:  You  must  have  a  queer  conception  of 
an  aeroplane,  if  you  think  I  am  going  to  cook  those 
beef  tablets  on  board,  or  run  the  likelihood  of  landing 
in  such  a  desolate  spot  that  I  must  camp  out  for  the 
night!  For  Mexican  reconnaissance  that  would  do, 
but  not  here.  Even  in  the  upland  country  here- 
abouts I  am  ever  in  sight  of  thirty  villages  at  a  fair 
height,  say  2000  metres,  and  over  more  populated 
districts,  at  3000, 1  could  probably  count  sixty.  Well, 
the  machines  are  all  here  and  tried:  I  made  my  first 
two  trips  over  the  enemy  yesterday  and  the  day  be- 
fore. Cowdin  and  Prince  returned  from  Paris  with  a 
press  reporter,  and  a  cinema  yesterday.  Well,  we 


178         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

pulled  it  off  this  morning  despite  the  rain  and  low 
clouds.  I  never  was  so  be-photo'd  or  ever  hope  to  be 
again.  In  large  groups  and  small  ones;  singly, 
talking,  and  silent;  in  the  air,  and  on  the  ground,  by 
"movies"  and  in  poses.  The  United  Press  reporter 
was  fine,  beaming  all  over  with  the  thrills  of  it. 
"Hated  to  sink  his  individuality  but  had  to  promise 
to  give  it  to  all  the  papers  to  get  the  job."  "First 
time  he'd  been  to  the  Front"  (Front!  sixty-five 
kilometres  to  leeward  of  it),  "or  been  on  an  aviation 
ground  with  so  many  machines"  (Many!  thirty!), 
and  he  smiled  with  his  gold  teeth  and  spectacles,  like 
the  matron  of  a  boarding-house.  The  first  part  was 
the  most  difficult,  and  everybody  had  some  sugges- 
tion to  make,  more  brilliant  than  the  last.  And 
nobody  agreed  with  the  movie  man,  who  planted 
himself  firmly  in  the  middle  of  the  field,  500  yards 
off,  and  waited  for  the  cage-d-poules  to  come  on.  Of 
course  we  ran  in  the  M.  F.'s, — a  simulacre  bombard- 
ment, don't  you  see.  Pleased  Captain  Happe 
immensely,  we  to  accompany  and  to  protect  the 
big  machine!  First,  the  Farmans  lined  up,  roared 
and  buzzed,  and  by  ones  and  twos  flitted  past  the 
camera  man  up  into  the  air.  Then  one  at  a  time  we 
bumped  out  and  rushed  by  him.  I  must  say  that  he 
had  nerve  for  we  decolle'djust  before  him,  and,  after  a 
turn  of  the  field,  we  each  dived  just  over  him,  then 
came  round  and  landed.  You  will  see  it  all,  I  expect, 
sometime  this  summer;  for  it  is  to  be  given  to  some 
American  cinema  company  in  Paris,  I  understand. 
Kiffin  and  Berty  Hall  were  much  peeved  to  think 
that  some  -  -  person  was  going  to  make  heaps  of 
money  out  of  us,  and  we'd  risked  our  necks  for  noth- 
ing. (None  of  us  liked  to  manoeuvre  so  close  to- 
.gether  with  the  plafond  at  300  metres).  "Think  of 
the  honor,"  said  I.  "Oh  no,  give  me  the  cash  and 
keep  it,"  said  Bert. 


AVIATION  179 

We  had  a  most  gorgeous  lunch  for  our  guests  to- 
day,— the  good  woman  outdid  herself.  Eight  or 
ten  courses,  it  seemed,  and  we  served  up  some  good 
wine — Rudesheimer  and  Pommard.  It's  wonderful 
what  a  cellar  she  has;  even  M.  jde  Sillac  commented 
on  it,  and  the  Captain  from  Etat-major  I  had  for- 
gotten to  mention.  As  for  Mr.  Wader,  he  took  it  all 
in.  I  know  he'll  write  up  a  most  enraptured  account 
of  us.  Then  we  hustled  them  all  off  in  an  auto  for 
the  train,  including  Prince,  who  is  still  to  get  his 
machine  at  Bourget.  Weather  is  still  over-cast. 
Perhaps  we  shall  make  another  trip  across  the  lines. 
In  any  case  I  have  learned  more  about  flying  in  the 
last  five  days  than  in  the  five  preceding  months, 
such  it  is  to  have  one's  own  machine.  But  I  am  far 
from  being  a  pilote  yet.  Of  course  I  am  delighted  to 
have  the  meat  tablets,  and  shall  use  them  all  the 
same.  Yesterday  I  flew  over  the  Valley  where  we 
were  camped  last  August — tiny  it  looked.  The  chief 
regret  I  have  is  that  I  cannot  seem  to  get  my  old 
Corporal  Bianchi  out  as  my  mechanic. 

Your  loving 

VICTOR. 


Verdun,  Esc.  N.  129.    S.  P.  24, 

May  23. 

Dear  Cousin  Helen:  Many,  many  thanks  for  the 
books.  All  but  one  of  them  are  new  to  me  and  I 
shall  enjoy  re-reading  the  "Ordeal  by  Battle." 

We  are  really  settling  down  to  work,  and  I  begin 
to  feel  I  am  actively  saving  France  and  no  longer 
toying  with  her  expensive  utensils. 

I  got  in  27  hours  flying  over  the  Boche  lines,  the 
week  before  leaving,  but  had  no  luck  in  running  on  a 
Boche.  Two  of  my  companions,  however,  finished 
off  two  Germans. 


i8o         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

Now  we  are  at shucks!    I  forgot  the  censor. 

Anyway,  I  think  I  may  say,  morning  and  evening, 
when  the  weather  permits  we  fly  high  and  low  over 
that  smouldering  inferno  which  has  been  raging  since 
February.  Yesterday  morning  from  St.  M—  -  to  the 
Argonne  and  back  again  well  inside  their  lines,  over 
2j^  miles  high  (4,300  metres):  yesterday  afternoon 
low,  to  protect  a  slow  machine  from  Douaumont  to 
Cote  304;  back  and  forth  for  an  hour  and  a  half. 

The  landscape — one  wasted  surface  of  brown 
powdered  earth,  where  hills,  valleys,  forest  and  vil- 
lages all  merged  in  phantoms — was  boiling  with  puffs 
of  dark  smoke.  Even  above  my  engine's  roar  I  could 
catch  reports  now  and  then. 

To  the  rear,  on  either  side,  tiny  sparks  like  flashes 
of  a  mirror,  hither  and  yon,  in  the  woods  and  dales, 
denoted  the  heavy  guns  which  were  raising  such  dust. 

One  of  my  fellows  who  was  flying  high  to  protect 
us,  fell  upon  a  Boche  and  brought  him  down. 

I  think  it  must  be  my  turn  soon.  Even  from  above, 
one  had  the  sense  of  great  activity  and  force  in  the 
country  to  the  rear.  From  every  wood  and  hedge 
peeped  out  "pares"  of  autos,  wagons,  tents  and 
shelters, — -while  all  the  roadsides  showed  white  and 
dusty  with  the  ceaseless  travel. 

I  have  since  heard  we  retook  the  fort  of  Douau- 
mont but  lost  "Homme  Mort"  while  I  was  flying 
overhead;  smoke  completely  hid  the  infantry,  I  sup- 
pose, besides  I  was  busy  keeping  beside  the  reglage 
machine. 

Your  affectionate, 

VICTOR. 

June  ist,  1916. 

Dear  Papa:  This  flying  is  much  too  romantic  to  be 
real  modern  war  with  all  its  horrors.  There  is  some- 
thing so  unreal  and  fairy  like  about  it,  which  ought 


AVIATION  181 

to  be  told  and  described  by  Poets,  as  Jason's  Voyage 
was,  or  that  Greek  chap  who  wandered  about  the 
Gulf  of  Corinth  and  had  giants  try  to  put  him  in  beds 
that  were  too  small  for  him,  etc. 

Yesterday  afternoon  it  was  bright  but  full  of  those 
very  thick  fuzzy  clouds  like  imaginary  froth  of  gods 
or  genii.  We  all  went  out.  All  but  I  and  the  Captain 
got  lost  and  turned  back,  so  we  two  flitted  about  over 
mountains  of  fleecy  snow  full  of  shadow  and  mist. 
He  reminded  me  of  the  story  of  the  last  fly  on  a  polar 
expedition  as  I  followed  his  black  silhouette.  I  went 
down  to  a  field  near  the  front  and  flew  again  at  five 
o'clock.  Then  it  was  marvelous.  At  3000  metres 
one  floated  secure  on  a  purple  sea  of  mist.  Up 
through  it,  here  and  there,  voluminous  clouds  re- 
sembling those  thick  water  plants  that  grow  in 
ponds;  and  far  over  this  ocean,  other  white  rounded 
ones  just  protruding,  like  strands  on  some  distant 
mainland.  Deep  below  me  I  could  just  distinguish 
enough  of  the  land  now  and  again  to  know  my 
whereabouts, — the  winding  Meuse  in  its  green  flood 
banks  or  that  smouldering  Etna,  Douaumont.  But 
off  to  the  north,  hovering  and  curveting  over  one 
of  the  bleached  coral  strands  like  seagulls — not 
Nieuports  surely!  They  were  the  modern  harpies: 
the  German  machines  for  the  chase.  In  the  still 
gray  mist  below  now  and  again  I  caught  sight  of  a 
Farman  or  Caudron  sweeping  over  the  corner  of  the 
lines  to  see  some  battery  fire.  But  as  I  peered  down, 
a  livid  white  object  moved  under  me  going  south, 
with  the  tail  of  a  skate.  "There  is  my  fish  and 
prey,"  I  thought  as  I  pointed  down  after  the  German 
reglage  machine,  "but  prudence  first."  So  I  searched 
in  the  water-plant  clouds.  Yes,  sure  enough  the 
venomous  creatures  are  there,  as  dark  specks  re- 
sembling the  larvae  one  sees  in  brackish  water, — three 
of  them  moving  the  same  way.  Those  are  the 


182         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

Fokkers.  I  did  not  want  to  have  them  fall  on  my 
neck  when  I  dived  on  the  fat  greasy  Boche! 

This  morning  we  all  started  off  at  three,  and,  not 
having  made  concise  enough  arrangements,  got 
separated  in  the  morning  mist.  I  found  Prince, 
however,  and  we  went  to  Douaumont  where  we 
found  two  German  reglage  machines  unprotected  and 
fell  upon  them.  A  skirmish,  a  spitting  of  guns,  and 
we  drew  away.  It  had  been  badly  executed  that 
manoeuvre!  But  ho!  another  Boche  heading  for 
Verdun!  Taking  the  direction  stick  between  my 
knees  I  tussled  and  fought  with  the  mitrailleuse  and 
finally  charged  the  rouleau,  all  the  while  eyeing  my 
Boche  and  moving  across  Vaux  towards  Etain.  I 
had  no  altitude  with  which  to  overtake  him,  but  a 
little  more  speed.  So  I  got  behind  his  tail  and  spit 
till  he  dived  into  his  own  territory.  Having  lost 
Norman,  I  made  a  tour  to  the  Argonne  and  on  the 
way  back  saw  another  fat  Boche.  "No  protection 
machine  in  sight."  I  swooped,  swerved  to  the  right, 
to  the  left,  almost  lost,  but  then  came  up  under  his 
lee  keel  by  the  stern.  (It's  the  one  position  they 
cannot  shoot  from.)  I  seemed  a  dory  alongside  a 
schooner.  I  pulled  up  my  nose  to  let  him  have  it. 
Crr — Crr — Crr — a  cartridge  jammed  in  the  barrel. 
He  jumped  like  a  frog  and  fled  down  to  his  grounds. 
Later  in  the  morning  I  made  another  stroll  along  the 
lines.  Met  a  flock  of  Nieuports,  and  saw  across  the 
way  a  squad  of  white-winged  L.  V.  G.  How  like  a 
game  of  prisoner's  base  it  all  is!  I  scurry  out  in 
company,  and  they  run  away.  They  come  into  my 
territory  and  I  being  alone,  take  to  my  heels.  They 
did  come  after  me  once  too!  Faster  they  are  than  I, 
but  I  had  height  so  they  could  but  leer  up  at  me  with 
their  dead-white  wings  and  black  crosses  like  sharks, 
and  they  returned  to  their  own  domain. 

This  afternoon  we  left  together,  it  being  our  turn 


AVIATION  183 

for  the  lines  at  12:30.  The  roily-poly  cotton  wool 
clouds  were  thick  again.  Popping  in  and  out  of 
them,  I  ran  upon  some  blue  puffs  such  as  one  sees 
when  the  artillery  has  been  shooting  at  aeroplanes. 
"Strange  phenomena,  perhaps  there  exist  blue  puffs 
like  that."  Yesterday  I  had  fruitlessly  chased  about 
such  puffs  to  find  the  Avions.  More  smoke  balls! 
There  above  me,  like  a  black  beetle,  was  the  Boche! 
But  well  above  me,  and  heading  for  his  lines.  For 
twenty  minutes  I  followed  that  plane  ever  in  front 
of  me,  and  inch  by  inch,  almost  imperceptibly  I 
gained  in  height  and  distance.  He  veered  off  to 
give  me  a  broadside;  I  ducked  away  behind  his 
tail;  he  turned  off  again;  I  repeated,  but  I  did  not 
have  enough  extra  speed  to  manoeuvre  close  to  him, 
though  I  temporarily  cut  off  his  retreat.  After  three 
passages-at-arms  he  got  away.  Then  like  a  jack-ass 
I  went  on  to  Verdun  and  found  no  one.  On  my  re- 
turn what  tales  were  told!  The  Boches  had  come 
over  Bar-le-Duc  and  plentifully  shelled  it;  two  of  our 
pilots  had  their  reservoirs  pierced  and  one  had  not 
returned.  The  town,  the  station,  the  aviation  field 
all  shelled — 40  killed,  including  ten  school  children. 
(And  we  had  word  this  morning  that  Poincare  has 
formally  forbidden  bombardment  of  every  descrip- 
tion, even  on  arm  factories — it  might  kill  civilians.) 
Yes,  this  is  what  comes  of  getting  notoriety.  There 
were  disgusting  notices  about  us  in  the  papers  two 
days  ago, — even  yesterday.  I  am  ashamed  to  be 
seen  in  town  today  if  our  presence  here  has  again 
caused  death  and  destruction  to  innocent  people. 
It  would  seem  so.  That  Boche  at  Luxeuil,  by  the 
way,  came  again  after  we  left,  on  the  day  and  at  the 
hour  when  the  funeral  services  were  being  held. 
But  through  telephone  they  got  out  a  Nieuport 
escadrille  and  cut  off  his  retreat,  bringing  him  down 
on  the  French  trenches.  By  the  papers  on  him  he 


i84         LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

was  identified  as  a' one-time  waiter  in  the  Lion  Vert 
now,  of  course,  a  German  officer. 

June  2. 

It  was  a  bit  of  self-importance  to  say  the  Boche 
came  here  for  us.  General  Petain's  General  Staff 
had  just  moved  here,  and  besides,  Amiens,  Chalons, 
Epernay  were  all  bombarded.  It  is  a  shame  some 
of  us  did  not  get  one  of  the  hogs  fair  and  square  on  our 
ground.  Norman  Prince  says  he  possessed  one,  but, 
in  charging  rolls,  cut  the  contact  with  his  elbow  and 
came  down,  thinking  he  had  a  panne.  McConnell, 
who  was  lost  (he  only  arrived  for  lunch  an  hour  before 
and  had  never  seen  a  Boche),  had  a  good  set-to,  but 
he  finally  got  away.  So  he  wandered  south,  way  off 
his  map,  and  finally  came  down  on  a  deceptive  field 
which  smashed  him  up. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

June  5,  1916. 

Dear  Alee:  From  now  on  you  must  not  believe  too 
much  of  what  the  papers  say,  we  made  the  mistake  of 
letting  —  —  do  a  little  publicity,  and  he  has  very  bad 
taste.  The  reporters  in  town  see  their  chance  for 
news;  and  they  will  soon  have  us  bringing  down  a 
German  a  day  apiece,  and  dying  gloriously  weekly. 
I  am  reported  killed  twice  already,  and  more  than 
one  of  us  is  severely  wounded  several  times.  Nothing 
much  has  happened,  intermittent  rainy  weather. 
Oliver  Wolcott,  Carlton  Burr,  and  a  couple  of  other 
Harvard  men  whom  I  knew  in  college  are  with  the 
Ambulance  here.  They  all  behaved  very  well  and 
picked  up  the  dead  and  wounded  off  the  streets  at 
the  time  of  the  raid.  We  had  another  alerte  yester- 
day; but  the  Boches  did  not  come  here.  Hall  sur- 
prised one  further  north  and  thinks  he  got  him;  but 


AVIATION  185 

the  German  plane  fell  through  the  clouds,  and  Hall 
could  not  see  if  he  hit  the  earth  or  not.  I  ran  a-foul 
of  two  with  Prince  yesterday  morning,  but  we  did 
not  have  unity  or  concentration  of  attack  enough  to 
get  them.  I  enclose  a  few  awful  photos  which  may 
interest  you.  I  am  most  proud  and  interested  in 
having  both  Conrad  and  Chanler  going  to  Military 
Camps.  I  am  sure  it  will  do  them  a  world  of  good, 
especially  since  they  are  both  so  anxious  to  go. 
I  don't  think  "Pitty  Con"  will  be  physically  injured: 
remember  Alan  Seeger  was  an  appalling  wreck  before 
the  war. 

Everyone  says  they  get  tired  of  flying,  "It's 
monotonous."  I  don't  see  it,  but  on  the  contrary, 
an  infinite  variety  is  this,  when  there  is  a  slight 
sprinkling  of  clouds.  Clouds  are  not  thin  pieces  of 
blotting  paper;  but  liquid,  ceaselessly  changing 
steam.  I  played  hide-and-seek  in  and  out  them 
yesterday;  sometimes  flat  blankets  like  melting  snow 
on  either  side  below  me,  or  again,  like  great  ice  floes 
with  distant  bergs  looming  up,  and  "open  water" 
near  at  hand,  blue  as  a  moonstone  cloud,  floating 
full,  for  all  the  world  like  a  gigantic  jelly-fish  (those 
that  have  red  trailers  and  a  sting).  In  the  nearer 
pools  the  mottled  earth,  pie-bald  with  sun  and 
shadow,  showed  through;  and  it  was  thanks  to  these 
I  knew  my  whereabouts.  I  was  going  from  below 
the  clouds  to  above  them,  circling  in  some  hole; 
thus  I  realized  the  size  and  thickness  of  the  walls, — 
300  metres  sheer  from  top  to  base  of  dazzling  white- 
ness. Some  have  many  feathery,  filmy  points  and 
angles,  others  are  rounded  and  voluminous,  with 
cracks  and  caverns  in  them.  These  are  all  the  fair- 
weather,  fleecy  clouds;  for  there  are  the  lower, 
flatter,  misty  ones,  and  the  speckled,  or  mare's  tail 
clouds,  above  which  one  never  reaches.  There  are 
such  a  lot  of  trumpet-shaped  and  wind  blown  clouds 


186          LETTERS  OF  VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

this  evening  that  I  should  like  to  go  out  and  examine 
them;  but  it's  a  bore  for  my  mechanic,  and  I  doubt  if 
I  could  go  high  enough  to  warrant  crossing  the  lines. 

Your  loving 

VICTOR. 

[Victor  was  quite  aware  that  he  was  going  to  be 
killed,  and  three  days  before  his  death  he  said  in  an 
off-hand  way  to  his  Uncle  Willy,  "  Of  course  I  shall 
never  come  out  of  this  alive."  When  writing  to  his 
parents,  however,  he  seems  to  have  thought  he  could 
convince  them  that  the  life  he  was  leading  contained 
no  element  of  danger.  EDITOR.] 

June  6,  1916. 

Dear  Alee:  Why  so  fearful?  Please  don't  worry 
so — and  never  for  one  instant  believe  what  you  see 
in  the  papers.  What  you  saw  and  heard  about  me  on 
the  1 7th  of  May  never  happened  at  all !  On  May  I4th, 
as  I  told  you  a  reporter  and  a  cinema  came  out.  Of 
course  the  fool  reporter  had  to  write  up  a  "story"  of 
what  he  saw, — I  saw  it  in  the  Paris  Herald.  It  was  all 
rot  and  rotten  from  beginning  to  end.  "Weary 
hours  waiting  for  the  return  from  the  bombardment," 
etc.  We  were  in  the  air  just  twenty  minutes  and 
never  out  of  sight  that  day.  I  suppose  to  make  it 
realistic  he  had  to  pick  out  one  who  did  not  return 
on  time  to  increase  the  suspense;  and  he  happened 
to  take  me.  I  can  imagine  how  this  lie  when  re- 
garnished  and  served  up  afresh  might  look  awful. 
All  you  need  do  in  the  future  is  to  serenely  ignore  it 
as  fiction  stuffing  for  hungry  newspaper  columns. 

As  I  said  in  the  last  letters,  we  are  not  giving  out 
any  more  news  even  to  reporters  who  worm  their 
way  here.  It's  disgusting;  for  we  are  novices,  and  it 
bores  the  old  French  pilotes.  Besides  we  missed  our 


AVIATION  187 

chance  when  the  Boches  came  over  Bar.    Mr.  Charles 
Prince  came  out  and  dined  with  us  last  night. 

Your  loving 
VICTOR. 

June  14,  1916. 

Dear  Alee:  As  usual  you  and  the  papers  know  more 
than  I  about  the  business  here.  I  have  not  done 
anything  as  yet  to  be  rewarded  or  promoted  for.  I 
am  not  yet  a  Sergeant.  To  be  sure  I  was  proposed: 
every  pilote  is  automatically  proposed  after  twenty 
hours  flight,  just  as  everyone  is  made  a  Corporal 
when  he  is  brevete.  It  seems  an  exceptional  chance 
for  getting  into  the  public  eye,  though,  I  must  say. 
It's  too  bad  I'm  not  going  into  politics  after  the  war 
so  that  I  could  make  use  of  all  this  free  advertising. 
I  might  almost  run  for  the  Assembly  so  as  not  to  lose 
such  a  golden  opportunity!  Anyway,  Conrad  and 
Chanler  are  benefiting.  I  take  it  they  will  be 
pointed  out  at  the  Military  Camps:  "Hist!  Dat  guy 
has  a  brudder  in  the  real  War.  He  kills  Chermans 
every  mornin'  like  sparrers."  Meanwhile  I  sit  in  an 
upper  window  with  waves  of  leaden  clouds  drifting 
by,  and  the  indefatigable  graphophone  churns  out 
some  vulgar  tune  below,  and  the  other  "heroes" 
play  poker,  and  the  Captain  practices  scales  on  the 
piano.  It  is  disintegrating  to  mind  and  body, — this 
continued  inertia. 

Your  last  letters  don't  mention  politics.  In  the 
French  papers,  on  the  contrary,  there  are  daily  most 
exhaustive  articles  on  the  Republican  convention: 
the  ideals  and  connections  of  Roosevelt:  the  sym- 
pathies of  Hughes:  the  betting  and  so  forth.  These 
items  rival  in  space  and  head  lines  the  Russian  ad- 
vance and  quite  put  in  the  shade  the  Italian  resist- 
ance and  ministerial  crises.  .  .  .  Your  loving 

VICTOR. 


VICTOR  CHAPMAN 

It  is  not  true  he  died  in  France; 

His  spirit  climbs  the  serried  years 

Victorious  over  empty  fears 
And  proof  of  Freedom's  last  advance. 

The  handful  of  his  mortal  clay 

May  drift  upon  a  foreign  breeze 

To  burgeon  into  flowers  and  trees 
That  make  the  diadem  of  May. 

Himself  still  lives,  and  cannot  die 

While  freemen  shun  the  tyrant's  heel, 
While  minds  are  true  and  hearts  are  leal, 

And  men  look  upward  to  the  sky. 

Compact  of  elemental  fire 

And  heart  untouched  by  easy  fear, 

His  vision  measures  fair  and  clear 
The  worth  of  ultimate  desire. 

For  him  no  blight  of  searing  age; 

Eternal  youth  is  his  and  joy — 

The  cheerful  gladness  of  the  boy 
Shall  be  his  constant  heritage. 

Mourn  not  for  that  devoted  head; 
He  is  the  spirit  of  our  race 
Triumphant  over  Time  and  Space — 

He  cannot  die;  he  is  not  dead. 

Benjamin  Apthorp  Gould 


ADDENDA 


ADDENDA 

DICTEE  DU  MECANO 

Louis  Bley — 

Ce  jour-la,  le  jour  de  sa  mort,  il  y  avait  eu  une 
sortie  sur  Verdun  le  matin.  Chapman  en  etait,  et  est 
rentre  a  9  heures,  faisant  un  atterrissage  un  peu 
brutal  qui  eut  pour  resultat  de  couper  un  sandov. 
Mais  voila  qu'on  nous  signale  des  Boches  venant  sur 
Bar-le-Duc.  J'etais  en  train  de  reparer  le  sandov, 
mais  il  me  prend  tous  mes  outils,  les  envoie  promener 
en  me  disant,  "Laissez  cela  tranquille,  il  faut  que 
j'aille  voir  les  Boches."  Alors  je  lui  dis  qu'il  ne 
pouvais  pas  partir  avec  le  sandov  coupe,  et  que  je  ne 
voulais  pas  le  laisser  partir  car  c'etait  trop  dangereux, 
il  pouvait  capoter  ou  avoir  un  accident  a  1'atterris- 
sage.  Comme  reponse,  il  dit:  "Cela  m'est  egal  de 
capoter,"  ce  qui  voulait  dire,  "  Cela  m'est  egal  ce  qui 
m'arrive  du  moment  que  je  descends  un  Boche." 
Mais  il  ne  partit  pas.  Apres  cela  il  alia  dejeuner  et 
comme  il  y  allait  avoir  une  sortie  a  midi  et  demi,  je 
changeais  ses  bougies  d'allumage,  mettant  des 
bougies  Boches  a  la  place  des  autres  car  il  aimait  bien 
mieux  ces  bougies-la.  II  est  revenu  a  midi  un  quart 
et  m'a  demande  si  1'appareil  etait  pret,  je  lui  reponds 
que  oui  et  je  lui  dis,  "Je  vous  ai  mis  des  bougies 
Boches."  II  etait  tres  content  et  m'a  dit  qu'il  allait 
les  essayer.  II  me  donna  un  assez  gros  paquet  de 
journaux,  avec  des  oranges  et  du  chocolat  me  disant, 
"Je  vais  aller  faire  un  tour  sur  les  lignes  et  a  mon 
retour  j'atterrirai  a  Vatlincourt  (derriere  Verdun)  et 
j'irai  porter  les  oranges  et  le  chocolat  a  ce  pauvre 


194  ADDENDA 

Balsley  a  1'ambulance,  car  je  crois  qu'il  n'y  a  plus 
beaucoup  d'espoir  de  le  sauver."  Alors  j'ai  mis  le 
paquet,  les  oranges  et  le  chocolat  en  place  pour  qu'il 
puisse  aller  les  porter  a  son  camarade.  II  m'a  serre 
la  main  et  est  parti  en  me  disant,  "Au  revoir,  je  ne 
resterai  pas  longtemps." 

Deux  jours  avant  on  etait  en  train  de  regler  sa 
mitrailleuse,  mais  voyant  ses  camarades  partir,  il 
court  a  son  appareil,  saute  dedans  et  le  voila  parti 
sans  prendre  de  combinaison,  c'est-a-dire  dans  ses 
habits  ordinaires,  sur  les  lignes  ennemies. 

A  la  derniere  sortie  sur  Verdun  qu'il  a  fait  avec 
son  appareil  de  80  chevaux,  il  a  ete  blesse  par  une 
balle  qui  lui  a  effleure  le  cuir  chevelu,  un  tout  petit 
peu  plus  bas  il  pouvait  etre  tue.  Dans  cette  sortie, 
une  balle  avait  coupe  les  cisailles  de  gauchissement, 
une  balle  avait  coupe  le  tendeur  interieur  d'une  aile 
et  traverse  une  roue,  une  balle  explosive  avait 
traverse  la  piece  qui  soutient  le  plan  superieur,  une 
balle  explosive  avait  traverse  le  pare-brise  et  une 
balle  avait  effleure  le  plaquage  du  fuselage,  et  c'est 
cette  derniere  balle  qui  lui  avait  effleure  le  crane.  II 
descendit  a  Vatlincourt  se  faire  panser  et  revint  a  nos 
baraquements  aux  environs  de  Bar-le-Duc  a  trois 
heures  et  demie,  et  comme  il  y  avait  une  sortie  pour 
quatre  heures  sur  Verdun,  il  voulait  repartir  en 
depit  de  sa  blessure.  Le  capitaine  Thenault  le  lui 
defendit  et  pour  son  courage  il  lui  promit  un  ap- 
pareil de  1 10  chevaux.  Chapman  etait  tres  heureux. 
C'est  a  sa  deuxieme  sortie  avec  cet  appareil  qu'il  a 
ete  tue. 

Une  fois  a  Luxeuil-les-Bains,  il  est  rentre  avec  une 
balle  explosive  qui  a  passe  sous  le  coeur  du  fuselage 
de  1' appareil,  est  sortie  sur  le  cote  et  a  eclate  sur  le 
tendeur.  Cette  meme  fois  une  balle  lui  est  rentree 
dans  la  manche  gauche  et  est  ressortie  de  meme  en 
frolant  la  chair  et  en  le  brulant  legerement  sur  la 


ADDENDA  195 

peau.  L'apres-midi  de  ce  meme  jour  apres  une 
autre  sortie  il  est  rentre  avec  une  balle  qui  avait 
traverse  le  capot  aluminium  du  moteur. 

Pour  ne  pas  etre  visible  dans  son  nouvel  appareil, 
son  appareil  de  80  chevaux  etait  un  appareil  tout 
blanc,  tandis  que  1'appareil  de  no  chevaux  etait 
peint  couleur  verte  comme  de  1'herbe,  il  s'etait 
amuse,  deux  jours  avant  sa  mort,  a  gratter  la  peinture 
verte  avec  une  piece  de  10  centimes,  pour  que  1'ap- 
pareil  soit  moins  visible.  Moi,  son  mecanicien, 
j'avais  peint  le  fuselage  en  gris  de  ciel  clair.  La 
peinture  n'etait  pas  seche  le  lendemain  lorsque 
Chapman  apprend  que  des  Boches  etaient  sur  Ver- 
dun et  il  part  quand  meme  avec  son  appareil  pas  sec. 
Je  n'etais  pas  content  et  je  lui  ai  fait  vbir  qu'il  ferait 
mieux  de  rester,  il  n'a  pas  voulu  et  m'a  dit:  "Je  me 
fous  de  la  peinture.  Si  j'abats  mon  Boche,  cela  vau- 
dra  bien  une  couche  de  peinture." 

Une  fois,  il  piqua  sur  un  Boche  et  1'approcha  a 
quatre  metres.  II  m'a  dit  que  ses  roues  touchaient 
presque  le  plan  superieur  de  1'avion  Boche,  et  qu'il 
aurait  pu  le  tirer  a  bout  portant  avec  son  browning 
qui  ne  le  quittait  jamais  du  reste  quand  il  volait,  mais 
il  ne  pouvait  le  sortir  de  son  etui  a  cause  de  la  manoeu- 
vre. 

Une  autre  fois  il  reste  trois  heures  20  sur  les  lignes 
allemandes  et  atterrit  au  hangar  avec  trois  litres 
d'essence  dans  son  reservoir  seulement,  chose  tres 
dangereuse. 

II  est  reste  une  fois  a  voler  dans  une  journee  7 
heures  sur  les  lignes  allemandes.  II  a  fait  70  heures 
de  vol  sur  son  appareil  de  80  chevaux  sans  jamais  rien 
casser.  C'etait  un  pilote  merveilleux.  Qu'il  soit  de 
garde  ou  non,  des  qu'on  annoncait  des  avions  Boches, 
il  sautait  dans  son  appareil  et  partait.  II  n'y  en 
avait  pas  un  comme  lui. 

Pour  les  departs  sur  les  lignes  allemandes  il  etait 


196  ADDENDA 

toujours  le  premier  parti  et  il  etait  le  dernier  rentre 
et  volait  toujours  seul.  Si  un  de  ses  camarades 
etait  en  danger  il  se  precipitait  a  son  secours.  Mais 
lui  ne  se  preoccupait  jamais  si  il  etait  suivi  ou  soutenu. 
C'etait  le  plus  courageux  de  tous. 

Une  fois  il  rencontra  15  avions  Boches  et  vola  sur 
eux  visant  dans  le  tas.  A  Tatterrissage  le  capitaine 
Thenault  le  dispute  mais  cela  lui  etait  egal.  Sa 
reponse  etait  toujours:  "Si  je  peux  avoir  un  avion 
Boche!" 


CITATION    FROM   THE    JOURNAL   OFFICIEL 

Oct.  7,  1916. 

Chapman  (Victor)  sergeant  pilote  a  1'escadrille 
N.  124:  pilote  de  chasse  qui  etait  un  modele  d'audace, 
d'energie  et  d'entrain  et  faisait  1'admiration  de  ses 
camarades  d'escadrille.  Serieusement  blesse  a  la 
tete  le  17  juin,  a  demande  a  ne  pas  interrompre  son 
service.  Quelques  jours  plus  tard,  s'etant  lance  a 
Tattaque  de  plusieurs  avions  ennemis,  a  trouve  une 
mort  glorieuse  au  cours  de  la  lutte. 


Printed  in  the  United  States  of  America 


'HE  following  pages  contain  advertisements  of  a 
few  of  the  Macmillan  books  on  kindred  subjects. 


With  the  Flying  Squadron 

BY  HAROLD  KOSHER 

$1.25 

"A  stirring  narrative  of  adventure  which  gives  the  reader  many  a 
thrill  and  which  shows  an  entirely  new  side  of  the  war — distinctly  new 
in  that  this  is  the  first  great  conflict  in  which  the  aeroplane  has  played 
an  important  part.  One  does  not  see  the  horror  of  warfare  hi  Mr. 
Rosher's  writing,  as  the  air-pilot  is  apparently  further  removed  from 
scenes  of  bloodshed  and  carnage  than  other  officers  in  the  service;  it  is 
largely  a  feeling  of  exhilaration,  of  breathless  daring  which  he  expe- 
riences and  these  characteristics  are  well  imparted  to  the  reader  in 
Mr.  Rosher's  sketches."— Philadelphia  Press. 

"There  is  perhaps  no  book  in  the  entire  round  of  warlike  publica- 
tions which  gives  to  the  civilian  so  strong  a  sense  of  the  utter  reckless- 
ness and  of  the  assured  certainty  of  the  aviator's  eventual  fate.  .  .  . 
There  has  been  heretofore  published  no  such  ample,  convincing 
portrayal  of  the  life  of  an  air-fighter  as  is  disclosed  in  these  letters.  .  .  . 
Lieutenant  Rosher's  terse,  dramatic  letters  vividly  foreshadow  the 
new  period  and  method  of  warlike  adventure." 

"One  of  the  most  fascinating  documents  which  the  war  has  pro- 
duced."— Churchman. 

"Fullest  and  most  convincing  pictures  of  the  air  fighters'  existence 
that  have  yet  been  offered  to  the  public."— Boston  Globe. 


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Italy,  France  and  Britain  at  War 

BY  H.  G.  WELLS, 
Author  of  "Mr.  Britling  Sees  it  Through,"  "What  is  Coining,"  etc. 

Cloth,  ismo,  $1.50 

Mr.  Wells  first  discusses  the  changing  sentiment  as  regards  the  war 
in  the  different  countries  where  it  is  being  waged.  He  then  takes  up 
the  war  in  Italy — The  Isonzo  Front,  The  Mountain  Warfare,  and 
Behind  the  Front.  After  this  comes  a  section  devoted  to  the  Western 
war,  with  chapters  on  Ruins,  Grades  of  War,  The  War  Landscape, 
New  Arms  for  Old  Ones,  and  Tanks.  Finally  comes  the  part  in  which 
Mr.  Wells  asks,  "What  do  people  think  about  the  war?"  Here  he 
presents  such  problems  as  "  Do  they  really  think  at  all?  The  Yielding 
Pacifist,  and  The  Conscientious  Objector,  The  Religious  Revival,  The 
Riddle  of  the  British,  The  Social  Changes  in  Progress  and  The  Ending 
of  the  War." 

The  dates  appended  to  the  different  chapters  show  that  they  were 
written  the  latter  part  of  1916,  thus  embodying  the  distinguished 
author's  latest  thoughts  on  the  European  tragedy. 

"Rarely  has  Mr.  Wells  sent  forth  a  volume  more  brilliant,  keener  in 
its  thinking,  truer  in  its  perceptions,  while  the  author's  restless  in- 
telligence makes  it  possible,  necessary  indeed,  for  him  to  include  such 
questions  as  the  world  control  of  agriculture,  the  development  of  a 
new  religion,  the  passing  of  the  hero,  the  other  matters  upon  which  he 
talks  with  illumination  and  the  deepest  conviction.  ...  He  has 
said  it  with  compactness  and  earnestness  and  in  neat,  closely  trimmed 
sentences  that  often  sparkle  with  epigrammatic  wit." — N.  Y.  Times. 

"Mr.  Wells,  the  pacifist,  has  contributed  to  the  literature  of  the  war 
the  most  brilliant  exposition  yet  published.  There  are  many  great 
pages  in  the  volume — those  on  the  effigy  and  General  Joffre  and  the 
perfected  French  method  of  offensive  warfare,  for  instance;  and  his 
comparison  between  the  French  and  English  officers  is  a  miracle  of 
frankness.  .  .  .— Philadelphia  Public  Ledger. 


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Mr.  Britling  Sees 

it  Through  $r.6o 

"A  powerful,  strong  story.  .  .  .  Has  wonderful  pages 
.  .  .  gems  of  emotional  literature.  .  .  .  Nothing  could  ex- 
press the  whole,  momentous  situation  in  England  and  in 
the  United  States  in  so  few  words  and  such  convincing 
tone.  .  .  .  For  clear  thinking  and  strong  feeling  the  finest 
picture  of  the  crises  in  the  Anglo-Saxon  world  that  has 
yet  been  produced." — Philadelphia  Ledger. 

"The  most  thoughtfully  and  carefully  worked  out  book 
Mr.  Wells  has  given  us  for  many  a  year.  ...  A  veritable 
cross-section  of  contemporary  English  life  .  .  .  admirable, 
full  of  color  and  utterly  convincing." —  New  York  Times. 

"A  war  epic.  ...  To  read  it  is  to  grasp  as  perhaps 
never  before  the  state  of  affairs  among  those  to  whom  war 
is  the  actual  order  of  the  day.  Impressive,  true,  tender 
.  .  .  infinitely  moving  and  potent." —  Chicago  Herald. 

"The  most  significant  and  impressive  book  which  has 
come  from  Mr.  Wells'  pen.  ...  A  strong  book  that  every 
reader  must  prize." — New  York  World. 


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Gallipoli 

BY  JOHN  MASEFIELD 


"This  is  a  miniature  epic,  or  saga,  its  eloquent  but  un- 
forced prose  making  it  a  book  that  will  stand  high  among 
Masefield's  productions.  .  .  .  Masefield  writes  of  the 
military  aspect  of  the  campaign  with  a  rare  facility  for 
pictorial  expression  ...  a  splendid  story  of  bravery 
splendidly  told."  —  New  York  Evening  Post. 

"A  piece  of  literature  so  magnificent,  so  heroic,  so  heart- 
breaking that  it  sends  us  back  to  the  Greek  epics  for  com- 
parison, and  sweeps  us  again,  breathless,  with  tears  in  our 
eyes,  to  look  upon  the  brave  deeds  and  the  agonies  of 
our  time.  .  .  .  Mr.  Masefield's  book  gives  us  a  record  of 
heroism  which  we  can  well  believe  unequaled,  which  can- 
not be  excelled."—  New  York  Times. 


The  Insurrection  in  Dublin 

BY  JAMES  STEPHENS 

$1.25 

"Big  books  have  already  been  written  on  the  subject  of  the  Dublin 
insurrection,  but  Mr.  Stephens'  book  is  by  far  the  most  satisfactory 
and  sympathetic  account  of  it  that  we  have  read.  It  is  an  excellent 
piece  of  writing,  admirable  in  tone  and  spirit."—  New  York  Globe. 


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THE  WAR  IN  THE  AIR 

BY  H.  G.  WELLS. 
Decorated  cloth,  Illustrated,  I2mo,  $1.50 

In  this  breathlessly  interesting  story  of  battle  and  ad- 
venture in  the  clouds,  Mr.  Wells  describes  the  havoc  and 
devastation  wrought  by  the  new  engines  of  war.  No 
accounts  of  the  aerial  bombardments  and  battles  of  the 
present  European  struggle  are  as  vivid  and  as  scientifically 
true  as  those  contained  in  this  remarkable  book,  written 
over  six  years  ago. 

Mr.  Wells  is  beyond  question  the  most  plausible  romancer 
of  the  time.  .  .  .  He  unfolds  a  breathlessly  interesting 
story  of  battle  and  adventure,  but  all  the  time  he  is  think- 
ing of  what  our  vaunted  strides  in  mechanical  invention 
may  come  to  mean.  .  .  .  Again  and  again  the  story,  absorb- 
ing as  it  is,  brings  the  reader  to  a  reflective  pause." — The 
New-  York  Tribune. 

AIRCRAFT  IN  WAR 

BY  J.  M.  SPAIGHT,  LL.D. 
AUTHOR  OF  "  WAR  RIGHTS  ON  LAND." 

8vo,  $2.00 

"A  thoroughly  sound  and  comprehensive  survey  of  a 
problem  which  is  only  just  entering  the  field  of  international 
politics.  .  .  .  Clear  and  free  enough  from  technical  difficul- 
ties to  make  it  extremely  interesting  to  every  class  of  in- 
telligent reader  who  desires  to  be  informed  upon  the 
rapidly  changing  conditions  of  modern  warfare." —  London 
Daily  Telegraph. 

"Dr.  Spaight's  views  and  proposals  will  undoubtedly  be 
received  with  respect  and  read  with  interest." — London 
Globe. 

STABILITY  IN  AVIATION 

BY  G.  H.  BRYAN. 
Cloth,  Illustrated,  8vo,  $2.00 

This  work  will  lead  to  aeroplane  stability  being  made 
the  subject  of  much  more  continuous  study  and  investiga- 
tion than  has  been  possible  in  the  past.  The  author's  con- 
clusions show  that  there  should  be  no  difficulty  in  securing 
inherent  stability,  both  longitudinal  and  lateral,  in  an  aero- 
plane, by  means  of  suitably  placed  auxiliary  surfaces  rigidly 
attached  to  the  machine. 


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